John Hemmings address to the Press Conference in Riga, Latvia.
On 31st August John Hemming uploaded onto YouTube a video.
I mentioned this on Twitter and expressed the hope the Latvian authorities are getting information from sources other than this. John Hemming has asked me to explain why I am concerned with what he says in his video.
What’s my problem? Summary
What’s wrong with this video? In general, to conduct the debate about the child protection system in this way, using inflammatory language, offering assertions as fact, displaying confirmation bias throughout and simply ignoring anything which might not support your argument simply underlines for me the very sad fact that the state of debate about our child protection system is woeful. It is embarrassing that we cannot do better.
It is all the more tragic because John Hemming does make some good points. He is right to point out that until recently LA were NOT aware of their obligations to inform other States that their citizens were facing care proceedings and the removal of their children. But that has been addressed and dealt with. John Hemming should get credit for making a fuss about that, because it is important.
However, whatever good he has managed to do has, in my opinion, over many years been sadly submerged under a pile of ill informed and inflammatory assertions. This does not promote debate or aid greater understanding or help children. Rather it drives proper debate further underground and the children are left to suffer in a system which is arguably not fit for purpose.
If he is going to set himself up as an expert advising the Latvian authorities, I hope he will take the time to explain further to them his role as a ‘champion’ against the child protection system, and in particular his links with Ian Josephs and the ‘mums on the run’ network.
I think the Latvian authorities ought to be fully informed about the background and activities of someone who proposing to ‘assist’ them in actions against another State. It is then a matter for the Latvian authorities whether they think they will be helped or hindered. For my part, I would urge them to act with extreme caution before accepting uncritically John Hemming’s views of the child protection system.
It’s about a 5 minute video. This is what he says just 31 seconds in:
The Government sets targets to destroy families.
Why frame your argument in this way, right at the outset? Is this kind of inflammatory language remotely helpful in promoting debate and understanding between two States? Is this really what he thinks is the purpose of the child protection system in England? If that is what he really thinks, does he accept that he is going to need to provide some pretty clear evidence in support of such an astonishing allegation?
At 36 sections he says that the LAs act ‘wherever possible to remove children from their families’ Again, an inflammatory statement which is not a reflection certainly of the current law that makes it crystal clear that adoption is the option of last resort.
He references a recent case which I won’t identify here as it seems that the whole purpose of this video is to encourage the Latvian authorities to put pressure on the Supreme Court to consider an appeal in this case. An interesting way to mount a legal challenge, using ‘interesting’ in the sense of ‘utterly inappropriate’.
He makes particular assertions about the state of the evidence in this case, claiming that the only real independent evidence was a core assessment, which was ignored because the SW Managers put pressure on to get another child to meet their adoption targets. It will be interesting to see what the Supreme Court make of this assertion.
He refers to statistics which show that ‘obviously’ a LA was biased because they have targets to increase adoptions ‘year on year’. Is he going to discuss with the Latvian authorities the efforts made by the Transparency Project to unpick and analyse his statistics? It clearly is not as obvious as he would wish to maintain that the Merton KPIs are irrefutable proof of a Government set target to ‘destroy families’.
I don’t disagree that the current ‘push’ for adoption is concerning – and I note this particular blog post with serious concern – but after years of searching, I haven’t been able to find clear or indeed any proof that the Government is setting out to ‘destroy families’. There are obviously problems in the system which we need to deal with urgently – but deliberate, malign targets of destruction are not one of those problems. See the ‘Forced Adoption’ post for further discussion.
The more time we waste posturing about issues which don’t exist then the less time we have to deal with the problems that clearly do. What does John Hemming have to say for example about the clear and stark regional differences about rates of children taken into care? The Merton rates are tiny; about 12 children a year are adopted or subject to a SGO. You are much more likely to be taken into care if you are a child in Blackpool. Why is this? Why isn’t John Hemming interested in this?
Could it be, a cynical voice inside me utters, that it is just more ‘exciting’ to set oneself up as an advisor to the Latvian government and enjoy the accolades that attach to such campaigning, rather than actually care about and do something about the depressing and mundane realities of inequality in our society? Not as much press interest in the latter I suspect.
The debate at the Transparency Project is here. John Hemming has been asked a number of questions about his statistics which at the time of writing he has failed to answer. I am particularly interested in his assertion that he has statistics from 1995 which will prove that there are ever increasing numbers of young children being taken into care and subsequently adopted. I would like to see this evidence.
As Claire Fenton Glynn commented on Twitter about John Hemming’s video.
Claire Fenton-Glynn @CFentonGlynn
@SVPhillimore A number of fundamental errors of reasoning. There are definitely flaws in English system but this clouds productive debate.
Please. We simply have to do better. We are educated adults. We are surely capable of a debate that reflects all the nuance and complexity of the current problems we face.
I have to believe that but at the moment I am seeing precious little to reassure me from any source.