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Child Protection Law

Volume 586: debated on Monday 13 October 2014

The Petition of Monte Arora, a chartered accountant living in London,

Declares that she reported her partner to the police for his drinking in 2006. As a consequence of this she was referred to the local authority children’s services. Over a period of seven years there have been numerous hearings in the family division and her children have been removed from her and put up for adoption. She was unable to get legal aid for the appeal and had to pay around £220,000 to Hughmans Solicitors. Additionally she has had to pay the bridging costs of finance and various medical costs adding up to an additional £200,000. However, the system has refused to return her children to her. It is important to note about this case that according to the court judgments at no stage have the children suffered “significant harm” and that they have been put up for adoption on the basis that they are at the risk of “likely emotional abuse” as a consequence of the mother’s relationship with their father. Their father died in 2013, but the children are still being kept away from their mother. The local authority’s view is that she was dependent upon alcohol. She accepts that she consumed perhaps one or two glasses of wine up to three times a week. She has medical reports from 2013 by Dr Mike McPhillips who stated that he was unaware of any

“current psychiatric reason why she should, not be judged fit to parent her children”;

Sheron Green who stated

“I have no reason to believe that Ms. Arora has misused either Antabuse or alcohol during her appointments with me or outside of the therapy”

and Dr Neil Boast who stated

“I agree with Dr McPhillips that Mr Ball’s (unfortunate early) death improves the prognosis”.

However, the court still refused to accept that she should be reunited with her children. The court has relied upon the opinion of the local authority and its agents which is contrary to Lashin v Russia (Application no. 33117/02) that requires a truly independent assessment for any material decision. The Petitioner believes that the government pressure to increase adoption numbers has destroyed her family. The Petitioner now regrets having asked the system for help as it has destroyed her and her children’s lives.

The Petitioner therefore requests that the House of Commons Justice Select Committee reviews child protection law to ensure that parents get a fair hearing with independent evidence; the House of Commons instructs the Government to stop pressing for ever increasing adoption numbers; and an investigation is started by the Education Select Committee into how public policy should change to fulfil the needs of the large numbers of children wrongly removed from their families.

And the Petitioner remains, etc.—[Presented by John Hemming, Official Report, 14 July 2014; Vol. 584, c. 5P.]

[P001369]

Observation from the Secretary of State for Education, received 10 October 2014:

Decisions as to whether children are to be placed into care are taken by the courts. Our system of family justice is based firmly on the principle that children should not be taken into care without a court independently assessing all of the evidence first. We feel that this is the right approach.

Under the Children Act 1989, local authorities cannot and should not remove children from their parents’ care (unless this is with the parents’ consent) without first referring the matter to a court. In every case where a child is taken into care on a care order, the courts must consider all the evidence and can only proceed if there is reasonable cause to believe that the child is suffering from, or is likely to suffer, significant harm.

Parents have legal representatives who are appointed to support them and ensure their views are heard, and to ensure that evidence put forward can be challenged. In addition, applications made to the court are subject to separate scrutiny by the child’s guardian who must submit their own analysis of the evidence, and ensure that the child’s interests and views are properly represented. Where, despite these checks and balances in the system, there are concerns about any individual case and its conclusion, cases can be subject to appeal.

Where the court makes an order placing a child in the care of a local authority, the authority should continue to work with the family with a view to the child returning home. At some point, it may become apparent that the child cannot return home. It is at this stage that the local authority must make alternative plans to provide the child with a permanent family home. One option that should be considered is whether the child can be placed with a member of the child’s wider family, such as a grandparent, and this option should be explored before considering placement with a foster carer.

I want to make it clear that there are no targets on the numbers of children in care or who should be adopted. In fact the law is clear that children should live with their parents wherever possible and that families should be given extra support to help keep them together. In most cases, support from the local authority enables concerns to be addressed and children to remain with their families.

There is nothing more important than promoting the welfare of children and protecting them from harm.

The coalition Government commissioned Professor Munro in May 2010 to undertake a review of the child protection system. This review considered the underpinning legislation and guidance and made a number of recommendations which have already been implemented. The Government are continuing to work with sector partners to reinforce existing legislation.