Saturday, 5 May 2012

If you're doing nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear...


Social Services – Isn’t it time they became accountable?

I have been trying to write this blog post all week.  But I have been going round and round in circles – because it’s such an emotive subject.

Over the last couple of weeks there has been considerable media coverage of Lucy Allan, who was wrongfully accused of being a risk to her child and threatened with having her only son taken from her, by social services.

Rather than spell out all the details in this post, I will put the links to the articles at the end of this piece.  But in brief, Ms Allan went to her GP suffering from depression.  She saw a locum, to whom she voiced her concern that her depression would affect her son, to whom she is very close.

This conversation triggered a chain of events that would finally lead to her being investigated by social services, being at risk of having her son taken from her, losing her job and having to spend £10,000 on legal fees, to prove she was of no risk to anyone.

It’s the kind of story that sends a chill down your spine.  A tale of faceless people, making devastating decisions which rip families apart.  And with absolutely no accountability. 

In Ms Allan’s case, the ‘powers’ that be have conceded that she is of no risk. But they are under no obligation to apologise.

In the greater scheme of things, Ms Allan was one of the lucky ones.  Being well educated, intelligent and considered; having a kind and supportive husband and the financial means to fight her case; she is no longer in imminent danger of losing her only child.  But the fact she was even considered to be of risk, will remain on files for the next two decades.

Over the last couple of years, going through divorce proceedings and a huge upheaval in domestic arrangements, I have undoubtedly been suffering from stress and depression. 

There is absolutely no doubt that this has had an impact on my children.  How could it not affect them?  It was the one thing that worried me more than anything else and I tried hard to protect them from it.  But I didn’t go to my GP.  I dealt with it in my own way, bumbling through, often really struggling and feeling alone.

At this exact point in time, I can count four female friends who are going through their own traumas.  Each and every one of these women is deeply concerned about the impact it is having on their kids.  But not one of these women is prepared to go and talk to their GP about it, because of what will be written on their files and because they are so concerned about the possibility of social services becoming involved.  Ms Allan’s case just confirms all their fears.

I was brought up during the 1970’s, when attitudes towards parents’ rights to treat their children ‘as they saw fit’ were entirely different to today’s socially accepted views.  Whilst many of the changes in attitudes we see today are for the good, I fear that in certain areas, it has gone way too far.

There will always be extreme cases, the ones that hit the headlines, where children have been subjected to horrific abuse.  I don’t think anyone would question the need to remove these children from their homes.  However, I strongly believe that there is an enormous middle ground.  Families who are struggling to cope, for a variety of reasons.  But instead of making it a priority to help those struggling parents in order to keep the family unit together, the first response seems to be to remove children. 

Over the years I have met countless people whose childhoods were less than ideal.  In today’s day and age, these people could well have been removed from their parents, had social services become involved.  But is this what they would  have wanted?  To be put into foster care, or a children’s home.  Ripped away from their family and friends, from their school and everything that is familiar to them? 

I very much doubt that they would.  They would probably just rather their parents were given help and support, to overcome the issues at home, and create a more stable environment for everyone in the household.

Surely the whole purpose of ‘child protection’ is to protect the child – not just remove them, at the drop of a hat, from loving parents who might just need a bit of help and support.  Why is there not more emphasis placed on helping families, rather than punishing them?

The legal system in England states that we are ‘innocent until proven guilty’.  We have legal rights.  Evidence against us has to be presented.  And when the state carries out a huge miscarriage of justice, apologies and compensation are paid. 

But when a child is removed from its parents, they are not assumed innocent.  They are not presented with the evidence being used against them and no apology or compensation is made.  But this all pales to insignificance when a child has been taken into care.  When is the last time you have heard of a child being returned to its parents, when the social services have been wrong?

Surely it’s time for the system to be reviewed. 

After all, if the Social Services are doing a good job and not harming children, they have nothing to fear… 

Isn’t that what they say to the parents….? 


To see more about the case involving Lucy Allan, or support her campaign to improve UK child protection legislation, click on the links below:

This Morning (please be patient through the ads!)

London Evening Standard
Support Lucy Allan's campaign to improve UK child protection legislation HERE.

5 comments:

  1. Well written piece - big issue. If we can't seek help, problems can get unmanageable. We shouldn't live in fear of social services or of talking to our doctor...won't help children, won't help families. How did we get here?

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for your comment. If you would like to help Lucy Allan's campaign to improve UK child protection legislation, I have added a link at the bottom of my post. LL

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  2. The problem lies with secrecy, secret courts, secret meetings, lies that escalate into bigger lies, creating a picture of some monstrous parent, who has been stupid enough to go for help in order to help their children, when in reality, they've done nothing wrong but struggle a bit. No regulation for these so called professionals, MP's who couldn't care less, local authorities who are the investigators of their own failings, is the picture becoming clearer?

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  3. Having been on both ends of the spectrum , a former care kid , to the now adult with children in care . I can honestly say that I wish that I was not so daft to admit to having bad experiences in my life to ANY professional . All I did was basically ask for help , as those unresolved issues from childhood and teen years have impacted on me. But that dosen't make me mentally ill as THEY claim. Or their well paid expert witness.

    It was naive of me to assume that I'd be automatically referrrred to a counsellor who specialises in the things I didn't help to address. Of course my childhood was used against me. Your G.P likes to fill you with anti depressants instead of referralls. Things from the past ( that you might have forgotten about) are brought up in social services "evidence". Forgot your childs dentist appointment etc ?.

    It is high time people woke up to the truth, no matter how perfect , brilliant you think your life to be right now , think about a "down period" you might have had. Don't trust any of these professionals as they are all linked to Child Protection. If you have "issues" - self refer yourself and above all tell them nothing as they write it all down !

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  4. People need to start speaking out, publibly anywhere they can. If your child is safe then you can speak out. Don't be afraid, join forces and stop the tide of insanity.
    It's Nazi Germany all over again.

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