Tag Archives: conspiracy theorists

The Children Act 1989 – deeply flawed legislation?

We are grateful for this post from Patrick Philips, a retired child protection social worker of many years experience who was prompted to write this response to our post  – A system in continual crisis. He is concerned that the Children Act 1989 has created poorly evidenced definitions of ‘abuse’ which can lead to children being removed from their parents when they should not have been. 

It’s enough to make one ask what is driving the maintenance of such a system in the absence of evidence that it makes matters better for children rather than worse.


The 1989 Children Act and decision making – do we need to protect children from the child protection system?

I worked in Social / Children’s services, particularly in Child Protection, between 1971 and 2013 and  I suggest that the approach of the 1989 Children Act is deeply flawed.

I do not dispute that children should be protected: the question is how, given that many well meaning efforts make matters worse for children, not better. Crucially, how are abused children to be discovered and how are decisions to be made for their protection?

Whilst I have extensive first hand experience of the system and do not accept that decisions are made according to a conspiracy, I can well see why some people might resort to such an explanation.

Some of the most important research, in my view, in social work decision making has largely been ignored, as well as changes which have taken place since that research was done. Dingwall R, Eekelaar J and Murray T of the Oxford Centre for Socio-Legal studies found that the only member of the child protection network who actually focussed on evidence (by which I mean forensic evidence, not research ‘evidence’) was the Local Authority Solicitor.

Her/His filtering of cases / insistence on hard evidence constituted an important barrier so that a large proportion of cases never made it to court. A great deal of pressure had to build up in the inter-agency network before action was likely to be taken (‘The Fruit Machine’). This involved the development of a good deal of consensus (though this could involve ‘dominant ideas’ rather than proper appraisal of evidence, as Stevenson and Hallett later identified).

The Dingwall research was first published in 1983 (‘The Protection of Children’). The 1969 Children and Young Persons Act was then the principal act governing child protection (with other acts).


The 1989 Children Act; the end of reliance on ‘forensic’ evidence

The Oxford studies noted that there seemed to be little difference between the circumstances of abused and neglected children remaining with their families and that of children who were removed. So long as decision making processes are erratic, one would expect this to be the case. The extent to which Child Protection authorities are prepared to remove children should affect the number of children left in abuse and neglect with their families. However, if it is not based on effective decision making processes it may have increase the number of children removed from their ‘natural’ families who were not being neglected or abused, or whose neglect and abuse will be even worse once removed than it was at ‘home’ instead of increasing protective removal.

In my experience, Local Authority Solicitors now, operating under the 1989 Children Act, hardly question the extent of evidence available to show that a child is being abused or neglected. This is understandable: the 1989 Act is drawn so widely that the mere opinion of a social worker (or their manager, more likely), that action is required is sufficient to meet it’s requirements. After all, if the professional social work manager’s opinion is that the child is being emotionally abused, the local authority Solicitor is hardly in a position to dispute that opinion, and may be instructed to take it as so anyway? I have presented cases to Local Authority legal representatives thinking the evidence to be questionable, only to find that the legal representative is pressing action even more than I was.

When the 1989 Act was in the process of enactment and implementation, I think the general view in social work was, in effect, that it was promising heaven on earth, and would never really be implemented. At the time I was responsible for policy and policy implementation, with others, in a very large Social Services Department. I was surprised that suggestions I made for the systematic identification of children “in need”, for whom the department now had formal legal duties, were completely ignored. However, after the death of ‘Baby P’ in 2007 a serious expectation that the 1989 Act could and should be literally implemented seemed to take hold. From then on the status of social work decision making also seemed to take a dive. Instead, managers increasingly made snap decisions on minimal and second hand information, instructing social workers accordingly.



I very much support the views expressed in Child Protection Resource that conspiracy theories in regard to adoption and child removal are wrong. However, the dynamics of the current system is bound to give the impression that there is a conspiracy, particularly as decision making today is just as erratic as in the Oxford research. The difference is that there is no back pressure from local authority solicitors as there used to be: cases are taken according to social work availability to take cases, and results are even more quirky, because there does not have to be the same build up of multi-agency pressure on Children’s Services as there used to have to be to produce action. Besides, there is a wider variety of people who may drive cases forward, usually (as Dingwall identified) because they regard the parents or family as discredited in some way.

I have experienced individual Judges, Children’s Guardians,Local Authority Solicitors, Doctors, Nurses as well as Social Work managers as driving cases forward for child removal on the basis of their own particular point of view rather than of collective assessment or evidence. Others involved are unable or unwilling to resist and to risk being discredited along with the parent if they do, however unjustified that discredit may be. Management domination of practice Social Workers are bound by a code of practice; breaching that code can lose them their job. However, that code of practice is only advisory on Social Work managers. Social Workers believing they are being instructed to take action which breaches their code of practice are advised that they may present the fact that they have been instructed to take that action in their defence, but action can still be taken against them.

Departments have to be very concerned with their own reputation, particularly considering the risk presented by government inspection. Workers may be instructed, for example, to make positive comment, or non at all, to inspectors. Whistle blowers are usually ‘discredited’ and dismissed. Another feature which is bound to enhance the belief in conspiracy theory is the way in which Social Workers etc are bound by gagging agreements during and following disputes with their employers. I have heard rumours that Local Authorities are spending very large sums of money in paying suspended workers and in settlements in disputed dismissal proceedings. I am not personally aware of any Freedom of Information requests in this area, nor what might the results indicate.

Consider the concerns raised by the Appeal Judges in re B-S , about the extent to which case presentation lacks proper evidence and exploration of options. I gathered from legal colleagues in court that they were surprised to encounter well researched and hard evidenced social work presentation in court. I suppose this indicates that the Appeal Judges’ concerns in re B-S were no surprise to lawyers operating in the system. However, a system in which the social worker’s first hand assessment and evidence is over-ruled by snap managerial decisions and in which social workers risk all in presenting any objection their instructions hardly encourages conscientious reflective working and organisation.


Social Work Training and the abuse of children by wrongful removal

This is ironic, given the extent of attention ostensibly given to ‘reflective working’ in social work training. However, my recent experience of social work training is that it is actually based on a narrow set of precepts and power relations.

There have been some hopeful signs; guidance issued about research to be regarded in Care Proceedings just before I left my department emphasises recent neuro-social approaches. These, and other newer ways of considering child development etc seem to me to have been of almost no attention in training taking place within only the last few years.

The extent to which social work can pretend to have an established basis for its practice remains debatable. Challenges to orthodox ways of seeing child development, for example, were not welcome. Ethical considerations and the impact on the child of ‘child observation’ by social workers in training were regarded as eccentricity on my part rather than as any appreciation of the child’s experience and perspective. To me, it is no wonder that social workers trained in that way can regard it as more satisfactory to remove children by the use of strangers in the middle of the night on suspicion of danger rather than to manage anxiety, assess properly and manage necessary removals with regard to the impact of the removal on the child as well as the need for safeguarding.

Attention to the negative impact of social work action on children has been shortlived in the past. In the late 1990’s it became commonplace in my experience to identify families in trouble because parents no longer felt they could set any kind of limits on their children’s behaviour as a result of their experience of child protection investigations. The ‘re-focussing’ exercise of the period attempted to reduce the extent to which almost all investigations began and ended as investigations without any family service or protective processes following. Within 5 years the emphasis had swung right back the other way and the re-focussing exercise seemed forgotten. It’s enough to make one ask what is driving the maintenance of such a system in the absence of evidence that it makes matters better for children rather than worse.

As I was leaving the job in 2013 the training pendulum had once again swung against University involvement in social work training, due to widespread dissatisfaction with their success in providing appropriate social work training. Employer domination of training processes must be equally suspect in light of the current system of employment and social work decision making. Social Work clients often find it astonishing that social workers and their managers make rapid judgements about matters as hard to define as ’emotional abuse,’ when they have no personal experience of child care or even family life.

In my earliest days as a Social Work Manager I was intrigued to try to identify the proportion of young social workers who thought that they had had any idea about what being a parent was really like before they had children. I only ever found one. This does not prevent most people, social workers and others, having very decided ideas other people not being good parents, views which are often mutual! Give such people the power, and other people loose their children.


Protecting children from the child protection system

I congratulate Child Protection Resource for the work it is doing, and I am impressed by the extent to which views are changing, even if that is no comfort to the latest generation of rescued children. In the UK we have, after all, a long and continuing history of ‘rescuing’ children from their parents to every variety of often abysmal future, from Barnardo, through other efforts at mass shipping of children to Australia, Canada, and to the specious identification of children to be removed in to care or placed in non-consensual adoption. Following re B -S, there must at least be less people now saying, as they were in 2013, that children from poor families not placed for adoption were being denied a great opportunity in their lives!

I am not suggesting that children should never be removed, and I see the ever swinging pendulum in the process of swinging away from child removal again. However, in my view the 1989 Children Act is pie in the sky and needs to be replaced with legal standards which more nearly reflect those expressed in re B-S, that is to set realistically measurable standards to govern the protection of children, rather than to push the law into ever less measurable levels of ‘abuse’ as Robert Buckland, QC, MP, Solicitor General curiously seems to advocate (The Times, 15 January 2015). Any reliable system also needs to recognise the impossibility of predicting abuse, a lesson one may draw from Eileen Munro’s early works in which she draws attention to the mathematics of risk assessment, false positives and negatives etc, but which she proceeds to ignore in her own advocacy of its use in social work (reference needed). The mathematics of ‘false positive’ identification would indicate even higher levels of mistaken removal than some of the conspiracy theorists in the field would have us believe, but not in the least due to ‘conspiracy’.

Knowing the fear that permeates the family lives of ordinary and especially materially poorer people of ‘Social Services’, I have been surprised at the extent to which that daily reality is hidden from view now that I am following an ‘ordinary’ life outside social work. Effectively this field of practice is shrouded in secrecy, occasionally breached by items such as BBC South East ‘Inside Out’on 2.2.2015 . In that piece Andrew Webb, Immediate Past President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said “the criticisms of our adoption system isn’t based on any evidence I can see that relates to children and their outcomes, it’s more a concern about whether parents should be given more chances”.

How can one explain such a statement from such a person? Is it possible he is really unaware of the harmful impact of wrongful removal from families of children, for the children? Has he never seen adoption and fostering breakdown statistics, nor heard of the Cleveland Enquiry Report or the consequences for children of the shipping children abroad? His approach in that interview demonstrates that some social work managers are prepared to say whatever they think will justify their position, sometimes in direct contravention of contrary evidence. I say this from direct experience over many years and in several situations. Under pressure, social workers also make up information to fill the gaps in their knowledge; a perfectly human thing to do, but which may have something to do with why parents so often think that their social workers are lying. Andrew Webb is facing neither the understandable pain of parents when children are removed, rightly and wrongly, nor the problem of making decisions at the right time and in the right way.

Andrew Webb’s approach gives the impression that his interest is in maintaining the Child Protection Industry and his own status within it. This may not be a feature of conspiracy, but social workers and their managers need jobs (and empires) in order to earn their living. They don’t get paid bonuses for removing children, but they do have to demonstrate that they are ‘protecting children’. Very often that simply means that if the child is thought to be ‘at risk’ at home that they have to be removed, without regard to whether this will make the child’s life better or worse. The long term suffering of a wrongly removed child is much less tangible than the immediate risk of yet another case in which ‘social workers did nothing’. In my experience, the requirement that the child must be removed because of risk, without considering whether this will make life any better for them has been quite explicit. On other occasions, I have been able to present the pros and cons so as to achieve the best solution, or at least the ‘least worst solution’.

In the same broadcast Peter Dale, who has long influenced my approach to Child Protection, says that he believes the British Government will have to apologise in future for the damage that is being done to children in England. Another scandalous era in British child protection practice is happening right now, ready to be exposed in future years. I hope that childprotectionresource.org.uk will contribute to the development of ideas about how that system might be replaced with one which is more likely to protect indubitably abused children without perpetrating terrible abuse on children whose circumstances may be less than ideal, but whose very real abuse is created by the very system which is supposed to protect them.

Patrick W Phillips, MA, LRCC

Are Bonuses paid to Social Workers?

If there are no targets to take children into care, then say so. What’s so hard about that? And if you won’t say so, why not?

The issue of ‘adoption targets’ and bonuses paid to social workers has for some years now been a feature of the intense feelings of distrust and dislike many feel for professionals in this sector. 

We have discussed the issue of ‘adoption targets’ in another post and how it seems that targets set up to speed up finding homes for children in care have been interpreted as pushing social workers to focus on younger, more ‘adoptable’ children in order to improve how they hit these targets. We have argued that the statistics don’t seem to support this but that there is a lack of transparency around this issue which doesn’t aid understanding. 


And what does ‘performance’ mean?

Sarah Phillimore writes:

It was always my understanding that social workers were paid a salary – nothing more, nothing less – and that talk of them getting ‘bonuses’ was just more wild conspiracy theorising. There were proposals for a pilot scheme relating to bonus payments in 2009 with a view to rolling out the scheme nationally in 2013 but I don’t know what happened to that. This proposal met with sceptical comment from Community Care and as far as I am aware, it didn’t happen.

A FOI request in 2012 by Shelia Hersom produced this response about payment of bonuses to social workers. The response received did not seem to indicate that additional money was routinely paid to meet ‘targets’.

Social Workers do not receive any other specific non-monetary bonuses or
commissions. However, they may be entitled to a non-cash award, which
would be at the manager s discretion. Non-cash awards can potentially be
awarded to any KCC member of staff and are not exclusive to Social
Workers. Non-cash awards are awarded to individuals or teams as an
immediate recognition of extra effort or one-off successes. The value
of the non-cash award will not exceed £50 for an individual.

It seems that there are problems with both recruiting and retaining social workers and money additional to salary payments may be forthcoming to try and meet these problems:

Market premium payments are made to ensure the retention of experienced
caseholding Social Workers and to keep salary levels competitive within
the District DIAT, Children and Families and Disabled Children s teams in
addition to market premium payments made to Newly Qualified Social Workers
and Social Workers recruited from overseas.

One-off recruitment incentive payments are also made to Principal Social
Workers to encourage new staff to come to the Kent District and Disabled
Children s teams and to Newly Qualified Social Workers in order to offer
incentives similar to other local authorities.

The specific question was asked: ‘Question 9. Are there any targets for forced adoption? If yes please supply details?’  The answer was ‘no’. 

Then I was sent a link to this article in the Maidstone and Medway News on September 20th 2014. A council spokesperson said:

Children’s social work is one of the hardest and most demanding roles in the public sector and we need to attract and retain people with talent and experience. This is a nationwide issue, which is why we have to offer attractive incentives to ensure we get the best people we can looking after Kent’s vulnerable children.

Eligibility criteria apply to these payments, which are available to social workers, senior practitioners and team managers in district teams and disabled children’s service, and are dependent on performance.

This makes me very uneasy. Paying social workers bonuses for ‘performance’ immediately raises the question – just what exactly is involved in ‘performing’ well to attract such a bonus?

I have made a Freedom of Information Request to Kent Council asking them to specify how many social workers qualified for this bonus in 2014, how much they were paid and what are the details of such a scheme.

I will update with the response I get. I agree with what Andrew Pack says:

What I would say, for the ultra-cautious people, is that I would agree that the lack of transparency on ‘payments and adoption targets’ is deeply unhelpful and creates a genuine reason for people to feel sceptical, uncomfortable and unhappy. The absence of clarity and transparency is itself very shabby. It may or may not have distorted how many times adoption was recommended in final social work evidence, it may or may not have had an impact on individual people’s cases. At this point, we don’t have the evidence to draw a proper conclusion and that in itself is wrong. It creates at best, a fishy odour, and as we well know, “Justice must not only be done, it must be seen to be done”

Update – Kent Responds Oct 2014

Dear Ms Phillimore

Thank you for your request for information made under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) 2000, relating to bonus payments to social workers. I am pleased to provide the response below:

I would be grateful for information to answer the following questions: 

a) the total bonuses paid to social workers in 2014

The market premium/retention payments made to Social Workers for 2014 was £354,639.35

b) the total number of social workers who qualified for a bonus in 2014

262 Social Workers qualified for the market premium/retention payments

The information is for case-holding Social Workers (Social Worker – Newly Qualified, Social Worker and Senior Practitioner) within Specialist Children’s Services, receiving market premiums and recruitment premiums between 1st January and 25th September 2014.

c) disclosure of the scheme and performance targets that qualifies a social  worker for a bonus 

Additional Criteria for Market Premium Payment

Social Workers

  • carrying a full caseload
  • performance level – achieving or above
  • not subject to any formal ER process
  • working in post for a minimum of 4 months during the qualifying period, i.e. 01 June-30 November or 01 December-31 May (e.g. staff on sick leave for more than 2 months in that period would not qualify)
  • not on probation

Senior Practitioners and Team Managers

  • performance level – achieving or above
  • not subject to any formal ER process
  • working in post for a minimum of 4 months during the qualifying period, i.e. 01 June-30 November or 01 December-31 May (e.g. staff on sick leave for more than 2 months in that period would not qualify)
  • not on probation

But how much further forward does this take me, given that I still don’t know how ‘performance’ is defined?

Reference to ‘performance’  probably means reference to KPIs (key performance indicators), such as number of cases held or closed, number of s47 investigations done. But the lack of transparency does mean that parents from Kent would not be unreasonable to at least feel anxious that decisions on individual cases were taken in order to get the bonus.

I will edit again if I can get any further information.


EDIT – I reply to Kent

On 15th October 2014 I sent the following email:

Thanks for your speedy response to my original query. Is it possible to ask you to expand upon your answer or do I need to raise a fresh request?

I would be grateful if you were able to refer me to any document or written policy that can explain what is meant by ‘performance level – achieving or above’.

This is because many people appear to believe that social workers are financially rewarded for getting children adopted and  if that isn’t the case it would be useful to be able to demonstrate that this isn’t what these bonuses are about.


EDIT – Kent reply on 23rd October 2014. Lots of words but no information.

Thank you for your request for information made under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) 2000, relating to performance levels. I am pleased to provide the response below:

The reference to ‘Performance level – achieving or above’ in the response to your previous FOI request (copy attached) relates to the process (‘Total Contribution’) which Kent County Council (KCC) uses to measure individual performance throughout each year (April to March). A total contribution assessment takes into account all the elements of an individual’s performance during a work year: their day to day behaviours, the quality and impact of their skills and aptitudes in their job. It applies to all KCC employees employed on the Kent Scheme terms and conditions, including those on the Kent Scheme working in schools.

Further information on the Total Contribution process is set out in the attached guidebook.

So no help there in defining ‘performance’. So I turn to the guidebook.

The guidebook sets out the Four Key Elements of Total Contribution.

Assessment Category Elements
Objectives and Accountabilities
  • Delivery to Action Plan
  • Effectiveness in job role on a day to day basis
  • Targets
  • Quality Standards
  • Budget Control
  • Customer Feedback
  • Peer group/360 degree feedback
Values and behaviours
  • Continuously improving in terms of how the job is done
  • Demonstrating enhanced delivery through behaviour
  • Living our values and behaviours
Wider Contribution
  • Contributing to team,
  • Project work outside the normal job
  • Participation in KCC work activities not directly related to job role
Personal Development
  • Achievement of Development Plan
  • Application of Development
  • Attainment and use of required skills
  • Qualifications attained


What is that word I can see in the top right hand box? The ominous word ‘targets’

So what ‘targets’ do they mean? Back to the guidebook. They don’t seem to be identified – or rather, the individual employee has responsiblity for selecting their own ‘targets’.

    • Check and adjust your targets throughout the year according to developments at work. Your targets are dynamic and should reflect what you achieve throughout the year so they need to change when changes occur.
    • Make sure you get at least one opportunity, mid year, to talk about progress against your targets with your manager. Ideally 1:1 meetings, or supervision sessions will also help you keep a tab on your progress.
    • Ensure that the development needs you identified are put in to action.

Cash benefits get further mention:

Cash awards are intended to be used throughout the year to reward specific actions. They can also be considered as part of rewarding the overall Total Contribution but managers need to ensure that there is no double counting of an individual’s contribution and remind themselves of any recognition given or payments made earlier in the year. They should not be used as an alternative to making the proper TCP assessment or to supplement the corporately agreed performance or general award.

So what do I learn from 40 pages of rather dense management speak? That ‘targets’ are important in order to measure whether or not employees are performing sufficiently well to be rewarded on top of their salaries. I learn that these ‘targets’ are dynamic and ‘need to change when changes occur’. But there is no clarity as to what possible areas or achievements these ‘targets’ relate.

While I am grateful for Kent’s speedy response to my queries, I can’t help but be disappointed by the nature of their reply. It’s little wonder the proponents of the forced adoption debate gain so much traction when a simple question gets a 40 page booklet in reply, that is full of lovely words but very little information.

Remember my earlier question? … many people appear to believe that social workers are financially rewarded for getting children adopted and if that isn’t the case it would be useful to be able to demonstrate that this isn’t what these bonuses are about.

My question is unanswered and I am left with a growing sense of irritation and frustation – this debate is important.  The way the State intereferes in the lives of individuals has huge ramifications in so many areas. Due process matters. This is an unnecessarily opaque response to an important question.  We are all entitled to as much clarity and honesty as possible about what is done in our name, with our taxes. If there are no targets to take children into care, then say so. What’s so  hard about that? And if you won’t say so, why not?



‘Targets’ defined in 2012 FOI response

The 2012 FOI request lead to the provision of this information regarding  ‘targets’ that are used to monitor performance in Specialist Children’s Services and are reported at a District level on a monthly basis.  Information relating to performance is available at Social Worker level from which the performance of individual Social Workers can be measured.


Number of CAFs completed per 10,000 population under 18 58.9
Number of TAFs per 10,000 population under 18 67.7
Number of Referrals per 10,000 population under 18 533.1
NI 68 – Percentage of Referrals going on to Initial Assessment 65.0%
Number of Initial Assessments per 10,000 population under 18 415.4
Number of Core Assessments per 10,000 population under 18 170.6
Number of S47 Investigations per 10,000 population under 18 109.2
Percentage of S47 Investigations proceeding to Initial CP Conference 70.0%
Number of Initial CP Conferences per 10,000 population under 18 44.3
Number of CIN per 10,000 population under 18 (includes CP and LAC) 290.0
Numbers of Children with a CP Plan per 10,000 population under 18 40.0
Children looked after per 10,000 population aged under 18 47
Number of Looked After Children with a CP plan. 30
Numbers of Unallocated Cases for over 28 days (Business) 100
Percentage of TAFs held within one calendar month of CAF upload 70%
NI 59 – Percentage of IA’s for children’s social care carried out within 7 working days of referral 69.0%
Initial Assessments in progress outside of timescale 200
(NI 60) – Percentage of Core Assessments that were carried out within timescale 80.4%
Core Assessments in progress outside of timescale 100
NI 67 – Child protection cases which were reviewed within required timescales 97.9%
NI 66 – Looked after children cases which were reviewed within required timescales 94.6%
Percentage of Case File Audits judged adequate or better 85%
Percentage of open cases with Ethnicity recorded 95%
Percentage of Referrals where the Referrer is informed of the outcome 80%
Percentage of Children seen at Initial Assessment 90%
Percentage of Children seen at Core Assessment 90%
Percentage of Children seen at Section 47 enquiry 90%
Percentage of Children with a CP plan where all statutory visits are within timescale 90%
Percentage of Looked After Children where all statutory visits are within timescale 90%
Percentage of Looked After Children aged 5 to 16 with a Personal Education Plan (PEP) 95%
Participation at Looked After Children Reviews 95%
Children subject to a CP Plan not allocated to a Qualified Social Worker 0
Looked After Children not allocated to a Qualified Social Worker 5
Percentage of TAFs closed where outcomes achieved or closed to single agency support 90%
Percentage of TAFs closed because the case has escalated to Children’s Social Services 7%
Percentage of referrals with a previous referral within 3 months 6%
Percentage of referrals with a previous referral within 12 months 23.0%
NI 65 – Percentage of children becoming the subject of a CP Plan for a second or subsequent time 13.7%
NI 64 – Child Protection Plans lasting 2 years or more at the point of de-registration 6.0%
Percentage of Current CP Plans lasting 18 months or more 7.0%
NI 62 – LAC Placement Stability:  3 or more moves in the last 12 months 10.1%
NI 63 – LAC Placement Stability: Same placement for last 2 years 67.5%
LAC Dental and Health assessments held within required timescale 85.0%
Percentage of Children Adopted 11%
Percentage of caseholding posts unfilled (100% – QSW inc Agency Posts) 10%
Percentage of caseholding posts filled by agency staff (Agency Staff ÷ Establishment) 10%
Percentage of caseholding posts filled by Qualified Social Workers (QSW posts exc Agency ÷ Establishment) 90%
Average Caseloads of social workers in fieldwork teams 20



Further reading

You may be interested in these articles by Andrew Pack at the Transparency Project for more detailed consideration of whether it is possible that there is a financial motive or incentive driving care proceedings.

Response to Commentators #3

A question from one of our readers ‘Justice for children’.

How are you going to prevent paedophiles from working in your new and improved organization?

All traditional insitutions are already tainted and they have lost credability in the public’s eye. It’s safer to keep children at home so that parents can be assured of their children’s lives not being destroyed, hence they demand actions instead of words.

How do you guarantee that you don’t have rotten apples inside your organization who get free access to vulnerable children?

Our reply

We don’t have any access to any children. This is a site set up to offer information about the child protection system.

Nor do we accept that it is always ‘safer’ to keep children at home. Most young children who are killed, are killed at the hands of their parents or carers. At home.

We do want to have a debate. But we are clear that we don’t accept the majority of the conspiracy theories and it sounds like you might be a proponent of one.



How are you preventing paedophiles to work in school and nurseries?
Not possible. Therefore… Are you keeping children at home all time?

Second question:
How are you preventing parent to abuse children?
Not possible…..

I think you asked a very silly question in your post. Sorry but there is not any intelligent answer to that.


Response to Commentators #2

You are apologists for a multi billion pound industry

This is a response by Sarah Phillimore, a family law barrister

I confess that I did not think the post Establishing Good Relationships would provoke much by way of comment either good or bad. But ‘Outraged’ lived up to his or her name.

Outraged said:

This doesn’t mean that either the parent or the social worker has to be 100% well behaved 100% of the time; this probably isn’t possible.”
Twaddle…absolute twaddle…a social worker is supposed to be a “professional”, they have standards and codes of practice to adhere to, which includes the social worker being professional, not being “well behaved” completely contravenes that. In that instance any social worker who does not behave well 100% for 100% of the time is in contravention of their professional ethics. Hence they should be hauled in front of the HCPC “fitness to practice” hearing and if serious enough prosecuted for Misconduct or Misfeasance in Public Office. The fact that this is happening, Social workers ARE being struck off and being prosecuted undermines the whole toadying drivel written on this website.

The point of this post was NOT to suggest that we ought to expect social workers to behave badly to the point that they fail to adhere to professional standards and ethical codes. The point being made was that the social work/parent relationship is one between two humans, working in often stressful and difficult situations.

It is not difficult to see how both participants in that relationship might at times be guilty of failing to listen carefully or failing to respond authentically. What is important is that people can recognize when they are behaving in ways that don’t promote healthy working relationships and take active steps to improve the situation.

I accept that I probably need to change the wording of this post because if anyone is reading thinks we advocate anything less than professionalism from social workers, this is not our intent at all and I am sorry if my post was clumsily worded.

The simple point I was trying to make is that social workers are human too. And respect and good working relationships are a two way street. But of course if you think you have been badly treated or a social worker has acted unprofessionally you must complain and take action as this is not acceptable.

The issue of standards of professional conduct and proper routes of complaint is an important one and hopefully we will soon be able to provide more detailed information about this in another post. [Edit – this has now been done, see our post on making a complaint]

For now I will edit the Relationships post to reflect Outrage’s concern.

Anyone who thinks this site is ‘toadying drivel’ either hasn’t read it or has a very different definition of ‘toadying drivel’ than most.


This site should be taken down instantly, you are disinformation agents, there is a mass of evidence out there for the abuse of parents and children by the social services of this country, illegal actions by social workers, solicitors, the courts. There are no conspiracy theories here, the Social Services are stealing children, it is a multi-billion pound industry that cares little for child protection and is focused on profits.

Again, a comment that refers to the ‘mass of evidence out there’ but strangely, refers or links to none of it.  We would particularly like to see evidence that the child protection system is a ‘multi billion pound industry’ that is ‘focused on profits’. The evidence we have found – see our Mythbusters section – does not support this assertion.


What I feel is irrelevant, as clearly shown in your response, what would be interesting is for you to actually respond to the points raised…do you seriously believe it is ok for Social workers not to be “well-behaved” 100% of the time?

I think I have answered that point above. Of course professonals with professional training should reflect that in their behavior and dealings with others. But it is also important to recognize that social workers are still humans and if their clients are persistently rude or aggressive, then it may be that the social worker responds in a less than patient and calm manner


Do you deny that the Child protection fiction is a multi-billion pound industry?

I am not sure what is meant by this. Do I agree that vast sums of money are spent in investigating harm done to children? In trying to work to keep families together? To pay for experts and foster care and lawyers at final hearings? Well yes of course.

But do I agree that it is an ‘industry’ make ‘mulit-billion’ pounds worth of profits? Absolutely not. I would like to see some evidence about this. I have been asking for a number of years now and I am still waiting. But of course it is easier to make astonishing claims than it is to prove them.


Have no social workers been struck off, prosecuted or had their fitness to practice questioned?
How does your line “This doesn’t mean that either the parent or the social worker has to be 100% well behaved 100% of the time; this probably isn’t possible.” fit in with the codes of conduct and professionalism social workers have to adhere to?

Yes social workers have been struck off for misconduct. So too have barristers, doctors, solicitors – in fact any professional body that operates according to a code of conduct will have had to act against some of its members some of the time.


If you are genuinely anything other than a disinformation agent would you have not entered into the debate rather than simply telling me to take my leave? I don’t wish to take my leave as I would happily enjoy commenting on every aspect of the disinformation you have all over this site and provide evidence that contradicts your fairy tale of social services in this country. Of course I know that would not happen as you “moderate” ie censor comments and replies to your site, not something that an objective, balanced and genuinely “resource” site would have to do. The site reads like propaganda, and clearly comes from an “authority” perspective. It’s not a resource site, it is a poorly hidden agent for the child stealers.

I hope that by entering into the debate I can reassure ‘Outraged’ that we are not ‘disinformation agents’ and nor do we censor or moderate with a heavy hand.

But to enter into and continue a debate requires that the participants are prepared to treat each other and their arguments with a basic level of courtesy and respect and to keep the number of sensationalized and unsupported allegations to a minimum.

If Outraged truly believes we are  a ‘poorly hidden agent for child stealers’ then by this comment alone he/she puts himself very firmly in the Conspiracy Theory camp and I doubt that any further engagement is going to produce anything positive.

But as ever, I will be delighted to be proved wrong.


Response to Commentators #1

Our aims as a site

We want not only to provide useful and credible information to ALL those involved in the child protection system, but also to be part of the debate about what we can do to make our child protection system the best it can be.

That means we don’t want anyone to feel shut out of the debate or that we will censor or ignore their contributions.

However, we worry that for far too long, constructive debate has become hostage to a number of people who put forward extreme and unsupported allegations about the ‘evil’ and ‘corruption’ of an entire system.

We are going to try to strike a balance between welcoming debate and views that may not chime with our own and not becoming overwhelmed or overrun by hyperbolic conspiracy theorists.

It may take a while to see if we have that balance right. But in the spirit of welcoming debate we here provide a response to a number of points raised by commentator ‘Winston Smith’.

We are having discussions at the moment about the best way to deal with comments here that we feel are not helping: we agree with this very helpful article from Urban 75 about the kind of commentators we don’t want to encourage.

We think we will probably delete comments to various posts which we think are obvious trolling or attempts to push unsupported theories.

However, we will continue to collect them in Mythbusting and try to answer them. In that way, we can’t be accused or ignoring or censoring, but equally our attempts to debate and inform won’t be derailed by malice, ignorance or wild accusations made without any evidence in support.

This response is provided by Sarah Phillimore, a family barrister since 1999. If she has got anything wrong or there is anything you would like to add, please let us know.

I am going to respond to some of the recent comments of a Mr Winston Smith. Mr. Smith asserts:

Adoption targets

Unfortunately a major scandal erupted in 2008 when it was finally proved that Central Government were paying generous grants to each LA. to increase the numbers of children Forced Adopted each year. In many LA’s bonuses were also being paid to SW’s to secure Forced Adoptions.
I have the printout showing the sums paid, including the £1,025,000 paid to “Blogshire Council” , my own, and with which Elected Members still deny was happening and go white when I hold it under their noses.

They were known as Public Service Agreements and if you failed to meet your target by the end of the year you were financially penalised, not only on this, but across the board on the other 11 PSA’s.
So you had every incentive to prioritise the adoption of babies.

This appears to be the familiar territory of ‘adoption targets’ where the wish of successive governments to increase the number of children adopted from the care system led to targets and performance incentives to encourage LA to find permanent homes for children who may have spent many years in the care system.

This is of course very different from a system which sets ‘targets’ for the removal of babies because they are easier to adopt.

We don’t deny that most adopters would prefer to adopt a child who is as young as possible – hopefully the younger a child the less trauma he has already suffered and the more easily he  will become part of the adopter’s family.

But does this translate into LA taking babies for no good reason, because babies will be more easily adopted and this in turn will enable them to meet their ‘adoption targets’ ?

I don’t agree.  We have already dealt with this issue in our Mythbusters section but I think I should repeat the salient points here

  • Even though local authorities have targets to match children in their care with adoptive parents faster than before, in England the average age at adoption was three years and eight months at 31 March 2013.  Just 2% of children adopted in England in the year ending 31 March 2013 were under one year old
  • Only 6% of Looked After Children in England were under one year old at 31 March 2013.
  • It usually takes at least three months for adoptive parents to be matched with a child after they have been approved to be adopters (see column A12 in the Underlying Data spread sheet)

Although the amounts of money paid to local authorities who meet their targets for placing children in their care and for assessing adoptive parents can be large (see this official Written Answer from 3 September 2007 towards the bottom of this page) they do not exceed the cost of the proceedings.  For example, the largest payments in this table were made to Kent County Council, who received £2,156,583 over three years.  Information on the numbers of children placed for adoption by Kent County Council in 2005-2007 is not readily available, but more recent information suggests that the average number is 205 children per year (see the adoption scorecard for 2008-11 here).  Dividing £2,156,586 by 205 would give an average payment of £10,519.93 per child placed for adoption.  Even without details for the costs of all social workers involved in a case, plus legal representatives at court – usually for both the local authority and the family involved – plus court time, plus foster carers, it is clear that any money paid in the form of a bonus does not come close to covering the cost of removing a child from their family and placing them for adoption.



Since then subsidies have returned on a more indirect basis.

There has been TWO MSBP/FII/AIB Relaunches since, on a very similar basis to your site.

This has always been the focus of all of this.

Sadly I cannot respond to this as I don’t understand what it means, so I will need Mr. Smith to clarify.



Since the mothers are accused of “Munching” the kids and won’t “confess” they if under 5 are likely to end up being Forced Adopted as they cannot be returned home.

We agree that if a child is subject to care proceedings and is aged 5 or under, then adoption is much more likely to be considered as part of the final care plan than if the child was older. Simply, adoptions are less likely to succeed the older a child gets and once a child is over 7 it is unlikely that adoption will be a realistic option.

However, here Mr Smith appears to ignore all the other options that are routinely before the court in care proceedings such as Residence Orders or Special Guardian Orders to family members. The LA is under a statutory obligation to undertake kinship assessment.

Presumably Mr Smith must have access to some clear statistics to be able to assert confidently that those under 5 are ‘likely’ to be subject to ‘forced adoption’ and we would be grateful if he could share this information with us so we can consider it.


Since peoples’ “professional” theories are involved they have just gone on behaving in the same way and continued to try and prove their theories.

Ruralsocialworker, the last thing we need is yet another campaign which denies everything, of which there have been a number over the years.

I think this comment shows Mr. Smith has misunderstood the aims of this resource. We do not say and have never said that the system is perfect and that no mistakes are ever made. What we do say is that we do not accept that professionals routinely lie and collude to ensure that children are removed from loving homes for the purposes of meeting adoption targets.

We are keen to discuss new and better ways of operating, the only rule which we insist upon is that serious assertions require serious evidence.

If Mr. Smith truly believes we wish to be ‘another campaign which denies everything’ then he needs to have another look at the site and what we are trying to do. Hopefully then he will accept this criticism is untrue and unfair.


Meanwhile anew campaign has been created by the adoption agencies and members of the government ,also appointing Martin Nairey as Adoption ,and include bringing in the American “Fost-Adopt” system and reducing times to6 months. So we are back where we started.

Mr. Smith appears to be referring here to attempts to speed up adoption times for children in care and to make it less traumatic for children by encouraging their foster carers to adopt them. I think both are very good ideas. I do not see how this fits into an allegation that the State steals children for adoption. Rather they are examples of how the State is attempting, quite rightly, to improve outcomes for children already in the care system.


Children are taken into Care for silly reasons and in breach of procedures. Once there they will not be returned and dubious or provably inaccurate evidence concocted as the LA does not wish to be proved wrong.

I cannot and do not deny that mistakes are made and mistakes in this field can have very serious consequences. But none of us here, from a variety of perspectives within the system, accept such mistakes are routine or are made deliberately and maliciously in furtherance of some State plot to steal babies.

It is emphatically NOT my experience that children are taken into care for ‘silly reasons’. Again, assuming Mr. Smith has some statistical information to back up this assertion, we would like to see it. As far as we know, serious reasons are needed before a child can be taken away from his home – which is entirely as it should be.

I refer Mr. Smith to the legal section of our site and in particular our discussions of what is meant by ‘significant harm’. I  can find nothing ‘silly’ there.

I reject the assertion that evidence is routinely ‘concocted’ and again would request that Mr. Smith provide his evidence for this extremely serious assertion so that we can consider it.

In 15 years I have never come across deliberate concoction of evidence. Yes, I have seen sloppy evidence gathering and reporting, misunderstandings that became hardened into believed ‘facts’ and people making assumptions where they shouldn’t. It is my job to challenge that.

But deliberate falsification of evidence? Never. So either I am a stooge of the system and too stupid to notice when this is happening under my nose OR it doesn’t actually happen very often or at all.


The greatest area of corruption is the Expert Witness, in view of the huge sums being paid, and they repeatedly give diagnoses NHS or private clinic experts say do not exist.

Mr. Smith seems unaware of recent changes to public funding of expert witnesses. The sums paid on legal aid rates are very far from ‘huge’ and in fact the prevailing concern is now that we will lose the services of valuable expert witnesses as they won’t agree to be instructed on the new low rates.

I would urge Mr. Smith to read what the Legal Aid Agency are now saying about the remuneration of experts.

I don’t understand what he means by ‘repeatedly give diagnosis NHS or private clinic experts say do not exist’ and again I think that such a serious allegation requires some serious proof.


There is an almost 100% “Guilty” verdict in the Family Court

I accept that if care proceedings are brought, the most likely outcome is that a court will make a care or supervision order. Two conclusions can be reached from this:

  • Care proceedings are a farce and the conclusion is a rubber stamp; OR
  • Care proceedings are not bought lightly given the enormous expense and time they involve for cash strapped LA and only the most serous cases will go to court.

I support the latter conclusion.  Mainly because this fits exactly with my own experience over many years.  In fact, when I am critical of the way a LA has conducted a case, I can think of only a handful of cases where I felt they acted too quickly; the majority of my complaints are that they waited far too long before taking decisive action.


Basically we are into the same scenario as Cleveland, Satanic Abuse, Constructive Memory, MSBP, those cosmic megascandals all those years ago, where groups of true believers continued to doggedly defend them, even though disproved.

Here Mr. Smith refers to a number of ‘megascandals’ and appears to lump our site in with those ‘true believers’ who continue to doggedly defend the indefensible, even in the face of evidence.

I am  not quite sure what he means here and again, suspect he has misjudged or misunderstood the aims of this site.

I think this artice from Slate is interesting about the hysteria which surrounded the issue of child satanic abuse. It is a good example of the danger of proceeding to reach conclusions about extremely serious matters when your evidence is weak or even non existent.


However, regarding KinCarers , this statutary duty is regularly ignored by LA’s.

Admittedly grandparents maybe too old but other relatives are ignored.

Regularly aunties or sisters are advised to file for Residence Orders or SGO’s themselves. Uproar round at LAQ legal offices.

LA will go for Forced Adoption and only after a bitter battle with numerous court hearings agree to an SGO.

This isn’t my experience. Every case I do, when a family member puts themselves forward they are assessed – they have to be. It is the law. If the LA assessment is negative, the family member can come to court and argue their case or even seek permission for a further assessment. I was involved in a very recent case where the court agreed the maternal grandparents hadn’t been properly assessed and ordered a further report from an Independent Social Worker.


This includes busting the Placement Order in the CoA on Appeal.

I would like to respond to this but I don’t understand Mr Smith’s point.


These are usually either with the foster carer or a remote relative with either no contact or once every six months.

Again, I am going to need some statistics to back this up as it is very far from my own experience of the orders courts will make and the contact parents are likely to have.


LA’s and FD judges will move heaven and earth to prevent any child’s witness statements, prevent the Wishes and Feelings Pact being done, and prevent them being called as witnesses in violation of Practice Direction on Child Witnesses Dec 2010.

The children are kept isolated to prevent their view a being known and the are routinely obstructed from instructing their own solicitors if Gillick Competent.

Again, evidence please. This isn’t my experience. Courts are rightly worried about the impact of children becoming directly involved in court proceedings, particularly if it involves them giving evidence about the abuse they have suffered but to say ‘heaven and earth’ is moved to prevent them is nonsense.

I invite Mr. Smith to read the case of Re W in 2010 about the court’s approach to children giving evidence, which may assist his understanding.

Mythbusting – why is it important

The contributors to this site all have a lot of experience of the system, from many different perspectives. We agree that sometimes professionals can act in a way that isn’t professional and this has the potential to do a lot of damage and cause a lot of stress and fear. However it is very important to remember that there is no ‘conspiracy’ and we hope this site will help you understand why certain things might be happening to you and your family.

We have a whole page dedicated to   ‘common concerns we hear from parents’  which we hope will reassure you.

We also direct you to this very useful advice from the suesspiciousminds blog that a lot of parents have told us that they have found very helpful.


We accept the professionals involved may not always get things right….

Lawyers, Social Workers and doctors are after all just other human beings. And we all have good days and bad days, we can all make mistakes. The mistakes that the professionals make however do have the potential to cause enormous harm. So we need to look out for bad practice and deal with it.

Sometimes doctors don’t agree about the medical evidence. Sometimes it is very difficult to predict what people will do, as we can see from the Serious Case Review into the death of Mick Philpott’s children.


what we don’t accept are the views of some that the whole system is just corrupt; that SW routinely lie to take babies away because they get cash bonuses paid for doing so. We don’t accept it is ever good advice to leave the country rather than work with Children’s Services.


What we hope to do here is set out some of the more commonly repeated ‘myths’ that we think do the most harm. We are always open to discussion about what should be included here or what you think is unfairly included here. We just ask that the discussion is polite and based on evidence, wherever possible.


What we think is really bad advice….

Again we re-direct you to the suesspiciousminds blog  who already has some really good advice on this subject.

However we do want to say that the most important thing you can do is work with social services and not against them.  There are a lot of scaremongers out there who will tell you differently but usually their advice (flee the country, refuse to work with social services etc) only makes things worse for you and your children. If in doubt for the best advice consult your legal team. They are not part of a conspiracy. Honest!

This is an example of a serious case review when things went very badly for a family because they did not want to work with Children’s Services:


And here are the views of one mother who went through the system and kept her child

These “theories”, the statements being bandied around as fact yet without evidence, the advice that is being given to flee, to run, not to work openly and honestly, not to seek help when it’s needed, to be coached to say the “right” thing, never to trust a system or it’s workers – it’s not helpful to us, it frightens us even more. We hear these statements and believe them – because we are threatened with losing the most precious thing to us. And in a lot of cases we believe them because it’s easier than confronting our own failings as parents.

Yes, there are mistakes and miscarriages of justice. Nobody denies that. And it’s abhorrent and I for one feel sick for those children and parents.

But they are in the minority. It just feels like they aren’t because the public is much more likely to hear about them via the media.

As I said upthread, ss took my baby at birth. I believed that to be the wrong thing for MY CHILD. So I contested their plan of “forced adoption” and – lo and behold – justice was done and – very very recently – I won. I was steadfast, I did not give up.

But – more importantly – I confronted the reasons why this was happening to my family. And I worked and worked and worked to repair the damage I had done. I educated myself on the law, I searched desperately for advice […] I eventually put together bits and pieces of advice, put my case together and fought. In my search I came across the Theorists. They absolutely terrified me. I took their advice on board – noting that the path of staying, confronting, fighting was the much more difficult option.

I can categorically say if I had taken the Theorists advice, I would have lost my baby forever.

Having the balls to stay, to fight, to work in partnership with the very people opposing me meant my baby and I are to be together.