Thursday, 5 December 2013

More on Social services and family courts

Following my last post and a good twitter debate, I was pulled up about some areas of lack of clarity in my argument.. I intend to rectify that here but more importantly I want to highlight why I am making the points in the first place and to give details of the case that I'm involved with regarding a father who has not seen his daughter for 4 years. I'm afraid it has left me disappointed in our system and has cost this man his happiness, savings and the best part of his daughter's childhood. Worse still, it is repeated all over the UK and probably all over the world.

Now for the clarity part - I don't just respect social workers, I absolutely hold them in very high regard. They have the most difficult of jobs and make decisions you and I would shy away from. Some are good, some are not so good but that doesn't take away what a stressful, tiring job this would be for even the most efficient.

My disappointment is in the whole system, the laws, the inconsistencies, the covering of backs and the fact that family courts are the only secret arena in our judicial system - supposedly to protect children, which I'm sure is a well intentioned rule but whether it's the right thing is cause for debate.

I believe that grandparents should have rights and with them a full say in cases like this, where the parents are the subject of any doubt. This right should have far more weight in court, than the say of a child protection officer. This is my opinion only and I am not asking you to agree!

I want to remind you of a well publicised case - Cootes. This one was instigated on my doorstep and perhaps has similarities to that of the Italian lady.

Let me summarise:

SCC deemed Megan Coote unfit to be a mother before the baby was even born because of her learning difficulties.
They said she seemed emotionless and had a low IQ
Megan and her mother flew to Spain and she gave birth
Spent 3 months in Spain and spent £ 12k of their own money before council did a U Turn
Child now thriving and has been allowed to be with mother, completely vindicating the family and their trust in their daughter to look after the child.

See more about this case here or just google the names.

Now, as I pointed out in several tweets today, I am very much in favour of less (nanny state) = more. More empowerment, more self responsibility and more rights for grandparents, parents and the wider family.

I think the criteria for 'assessing (judging) must leave a lot to be desired if you can threaten to take away a child based on low IQ and how someone might show their emotions.

Do we need to change the criteria or is there more to it than that? Do social workers need more help or training since Baby P? Are the directives now based on accountability instead of what's really right for the child and family? 

How many parents have fled to Spain because of this interference? (again, I am challenging our processes not the people).

Now onto the case I am involved with. This is more complicated and will take time to lay out properly. It highlights how badly we treat men in situations like this and how women have the upper hand and can manipulate custody. This is a current complex case involving Spain as well as the UK because in this instance the father had custody rights in Spain, the daughter was abducted and brought to the UK and the two legal jurisdictions has caused a nightmare. It is a mess and the father (who I will call Roy) thinks that the authorities cherry pick the bits they like from each jurisdiction, which in turn hinders every step he takes.

See you in part 2 - I am gathering4 the info.....

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

The Shameful Case of the Italian Caesarean

My twitter followers will know that I've been very vocal this week on the case of the Italian lady who found out, in a horrendous way, just how bad we are at looking after those with mental health issues.

I have been abhorred, horrified and totally disappointed in Essex authorities in their handling of the whole case involving an Italian women who came here to study, was pregnant and had a caesarean forced upon her without her consent.

Some replied, not understanding the enormity of what had taken place, happy to see freedom and human rights exchanged for what they consider a thoughtful set of actions by those with the power to snatch your child away.

I know many will not agree with me when I say that I believe we interfere too much in peoples lives but this particular case goes beyond anything that I thought would ever happen in this country.

Brendan Fleming, the woman’s British lawyer, told The Sunday Telegraph: “I have never heard of anything like this in all my 40 years in the job.
“I can understand if someone is very ill that they may not be able to consent to a medical procedure, but a forced caesarean is unprecedented.
“If there were concerns about the care of this child by an Italian mother, then the better plan would have been for the authorities here to have notified social services in Italy and for the child to have been taken back there.”

My mother has Italian satellite and watches the news from Italy rather than from the UK news channels. I was interested to see what the view was from my other country.

As I trust doctors a lot more than I trust social workers, I had made an assumption that it must have been a necessary evil with good reason. I was more upset by the fact that the baby was not then sent back to Italy with her mother for them to decide what was best. I think I may have trusted too much. I have learnt today that the operation happened when this lady was only 34 weeks pregnant. Why?

Her other two children are looked after by their Nonna and the mother spends time with them every day, although does not live with them. She has been trying to rebuild her life and that is one of the reasons she came to Britain. Her sister in law is happy to take on all 3 children in America including the mother.
The family were never consulted properly and although the Nonna has said she has her hands full with the 2 children she already looks after, it seems there are other family members willing to take the new addition.

Italians are in uproar, and rightly so. They are probably not in receipt of all the facts - as we are not - but at the moment they think we are the devil incarnate. Our reputation is in shreds and I can't defend it.

The solution was simple.As the baby still had a few weeks to go inside the womb, this lady should have been sent back to Italy - AS SHE HAD REQUESTED - before she had the baby and left to the wider family and the Italian authorities to deal with, as they had done before and quite successfully. Who are we to think we could do a better job? The sheer arrogance of it. If the Italian authorities had wiped their hands clean, as has been suggested, then so be it.

Apparently the lawyers were told that the mother was too late in her quest to get the child back because adoption procedures were already in place - this was not true. Was this a lie? A mistake? Has this happened before? We need to know. 

Now there could be any number of factors that could put a different perspective on the whole tragic tale but one thing I will not change my mind about is this.

Social workers should not have had the power to keep this baby away and make a decision to adopt when there are other family members who are willing to care and look after. If this woman is trying to rebuild her life, she should have been given the support and the chance to prove she is capable, or will be in the future. We are spending money in the wrong places.

Imagine if this had happened to your daughter and your grandchild ended up in another country, with you having no say control whatsoever in it's future, or even being nearby in order to fight it properly.

We need grandparents rights across the whole of the EU, especially if now country boundaries count for nothing when it comes to snatching children off their parents. Does anyone think of their feelings when it comes to family courts? Sadly the answer to that is No, as I have witnessed for myself in a current case I am watching closely. Grandparents, often totally innocent in these affairs, have no say whatsoever in being able to even see their grandchildren for a couple of hours never mind on a regular basis. This needs to change immediately. The state loves the fact we look after them while our children work, help out financially etc etc but when it comes to our needs we are insignificant and ignored. When I met David Cameron, I asked him to make this a priority and he has promised that they are looking into it. I will hold him to that.

This is a shameful moment in the history of social work and reminds me of the film Philomena. I'm sure those nuns who stole from the shamed unmarried mothers at the time, thought they were doing God's work and the right thing for the babies. We are horrified now at this true story, and in the future people will be truly horrified at this one - if they are not already.

Shame on us..

Monday, 2 December 2013

Police Campaign for Christmas Security

The South West Ipswich police team were at the Stoke Park Asda at the weekend to give residents useful packs with advice about security in the home and with their motor vehicles.

Ben Gummer and I went to see them after campaigning in Stoke Park and it was somewhat surprising how many people had left goods and belongings on show in their cars. As we were arriving a police officer was leaving a flyer on the windscreens of cars where the owners had left items on show, including mobiles and gifts, that might tempt an opportunist to break in. I must admit I am guilty of leaving an old coat in my car, on a regular basis, for the times when I might break down and need the extra warmth. I was rightly told this is not a good thing to do and when I returned home I promptly removed all those items that were in my car and could be a curious temptation for any would-be thief! And as one police officer said, it's not just about the items, it's about the inconvenience of having a smashed window etc.

There were some good bits of advice and although some are obvious, it's amazing how many people need reminding! Including:

Sat Navs, CD players and tools are favourites of thieves. Remove all signs of valuable items.
Park in well lit areas
Consider registering all your identifiable valuables -
Put keys out of reach from windows and doors to your house (Also - one I learnt from a friend - while she was still in the house an opportunist thief used a devise to reach down from a small open window and stole her handbag).
Stop, Lock, Chain and Check - to keep bogus callers out. Carefully check identity cards, including checking the number shown on the identity card with the phone book, before calling it, and if in doubt, do not let them in.

Burglaries have dropped over the last few years but they still happen and it's important to secure your home. if you rent from a private landlord then it is their responsibility to ensure that you have security features but up to the tenants to use them. Work with the landlord to improve security if you're not happy with the locks that are currently on your doors and windows.

Some questions for all of us to ask of ourselves and our vulnerable neighbours;
Does your door have a robust deadlock?
Do you lock your doors even if you're leaving the house for just a few minutes?
Are windows and frames in good condition?
Do you keep your windows locked?
Is your garden fence in good condition and high enough to make climbing difficult?
Have you marked your valuables?
Are you a member of Neighbourhood Watch?
Are your garages and sheds secure?
If you have a communal entry point, do you make sure you never buzz strangers in or allow them to follow you in?

For more info
Suffolk police 01473 613500
Crimestoppers 0800 555 111