Question it!

Welcome to another week.

A woman who says she was repeatedly raped by paedophiles in Telford during her childhood, has told the national media that the attacks were so awful that she tried to commit suicide before leaving the town to escape her abusers.

During the course of the interview, the woman, who is now in her thirties, explains that she had several abortions after falling pregnant by the paedophiles who raped her. The number of abortions she had is not mentioned, or whether they were carried out by the NHS or a private clinic, though the article suggests that they were performed whilst the woman was still a minor.

We also do not know whether the place which carried out these abortions alerted social services or the police.

Today, NHS staff involved in the abortion process are obliged to contact social services if they suspect a child is at risk of sexual abuse.  And in Wales, a new law implemented in April of this year now makes it compulsory for health care professionals to report suspicions of child sexual abuse.

Tensions between pro-life and pro-choice centres also exist, and have led to some pro-life organisations based in America covering up sexual abuse and closer to home in the UK, using scare tactics to deter women from having abortions.

Abortion clinics could be viewed as an incredibly important venue for identifying and preventing further abuse of children, though little mention of them is made in recent research on child sexual abuse in the UK. They are also places where reporting abuse can sometimes be overshadowed by moral or religious principles as with pro-life pregnancy centres, or a lack of understanding as to why children may become pregnant.

The nation’s Independent Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse has been tasked with looking at institutions which may have failed in their duty to protect children from exploitation.

Our question this week then, is just this: do you think the Inquiry should investigate abortion clinics, both NHS and private as part of its work? 





URGENT: France 2 Needs Teachers For School Uniform Documentary

With offices in London, media outlet France 2 covers a wide variety of stories in the UK and is currently looking for head teachers or teachers to take part in a documentary their journalists are producing about school uniforms in the UK. France 2 is the equivalent of our own media outlet the BBC, and broadcasts globally.

The documentary makers would like to interview teachers within a school setting to talk about how the school uniform system works in the UK, why we have it and the pros and cons of having uniforms. France 2 is looking for teachers willing to take part, and be filmed on Tuesday 30th August. The programme will be aired next week.

It is short notice, but if anyone is able to help, please contact Laura at France 2 on 07961788876.



Fashion Shows Where Kids In Care Are Paraded For Adoption? Welcome To Middle America.

Featuring some of the most offensive content on adoption we have seen in some time, and stemming from a film called Catwalk Kids, this documentary highlights the practice of pushing adoptive children down a catwalk in front of prospective parents with a view to finding children in care a permanent home.

If the name of this 2011 documentary alone doesn’t make your blood boil, the short trailer will. Eighteen seconds in, and what appears to be a spokesperson for this embarrassing policy tells us, “We assumed these children were un-adoptable.” This is what kick starts a rationale which tries to justify placing children on display in order to secure adoptions for some of the most vulnerable children in America. The same spokesman tells the interviewer, “This is for the children. This is for them.” Not for the State then, desperately trying to rid itself of a massive financial burden.*

Unable to find secure placements for children in need, those interviewed for the documentary explain that as the current strategy to find homes was not working, a new and radical plan was needed. Rather than look for an intelligent solution, the authorities involved decide to glamourise the adoption process by making these children ‘perform’ up and down a makeshift catwalk.

No one seems to have considered what damage this is doing to their self-esteem, or general development. At best, these children may  grow up thinking that in order to be loved they must be fun, glamorous and engaging. At worst, those children who are not ‘chosen’, may develop mental health difficulties that will linger on into adulthood.

The stupidity of this practice just takes our breath away.

As does a scene in the trailer in which another buffoon justifies their warped idea of a ‘whatever it takes’ mentality  by saying, “This is a business,” and another declaring, “Without marketing, we would have to close our doors.”

The documentary does attempt to give different views on America’s Fashion Parade policy. In a thought-provoking segment of the film, one of our favourite British child welfare campaigners David Akinsanya, talks about the flaws in our own adoption policies and the ways in which the government has let children down. Of the State’s involvement in raising children, David says,

“How dare we as the State say we’re going to take children away from inadequate parents and then be inadequate parents ourselves? ”

The documentary also touches on adoption practices around the world, including the UK’s own National Adoption Week, when the Sun newspaper runs ads with children’s photos and details about them with a view to securing adoptions. This practice, which is not exclusive to The Sun, continues to raise serious concerns about children’s right to privacy and just as importantly their safety.  These images are circulated to The Sun’s 5 million strong readership, and more once the Sun’s website, which they also use to ‘advertise’ children, is included.

The name of the film is of course designed to grab your attention and upset you, but much like the practice of throwing children onto a catwalk the premise is lacking in substance and completely misses the point. Making a sale is not equal to a happy ending.

Catwalk Kids is available to watch on Amazon, and is free for those with Amazon Prime or Amazon’s monthly video package.

*Stats from 2006

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The Buzz

The latest child welfare news:

Question it!

Welcome to another week.

Ongoing failings within Family Court process have been highlighted in a recent case where judge, Mrs Justice Pauffley condemns, amongst other things, unethical private agreements between judges and social work staff, negligent child protection assessments of parents and psychiatric reports which are written often in a day and without even speaking to the family members whom the reports are about.

The case is so riddled with deeply embedded malpractice that President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, has promised to tackle the secretive nature in which agreements are reached between local authorities and the court.

Mrs Justice Pauffley said in court:

‘There was, apparently, an established but largely clandestine arrangement between the local authority and the court which, to my mind, has considerable repercussions for justice.’ Mrs Justice Pauffley added: ‘In public law proceedings the local authority is the applicant. It is not and should never be seen as the decision maker. That is the role of the court.

Our question to you then, is just this: how can the Family Court rid itself of unethical practices? 


Ministers and Children’s Policy – What’s New


Prime Minister Theresa May has made a number of important changes to the roles and responsibilities of ministers working on child welfare policy.

These include a wider brief for Minister Of State For Vulnerable Children And Families, Ed Timpson, with added responsibilities in the areas of children’s mental health, the pupil premium and the National Citizen Service.

We still think it’s strange that child welfare matters continue to be lumped in under the Department for Education, and spread out across other ministerial roles. It’s time we had a dedicated department for this work.

We’ve added a break down below of the current roles, responsibilities and who’s in charge of which area:

Department of Health

  • Philip Dunne Minister of state for health Hospital care; NHS performance and operations; the workforce; patient safety and maternity care
  • Nicola Blackwood Under secretary of state for public health and Innovation Children’s health; school nursing; and mental health in general
  • David Mowat Under secretary of state for community health and care Carers; community services; learning disabilities; and all elements of primary care – including dentistry and pharmacy

Department For Education

  • Justine Greening Secretary of State for Education; minister for women and equalities Early years; adoption and child protection; teachers’ pay; the school curriculum; school improvement; and the establishment of free schools and academies; crossgovernment equality strategy; transgender equality
  • Edward Timpson Minister of state for vulnerable children and families Children’s social care, including child protection, children in care and adoption, care leavers, local authority innovation and intervention, and the Children and Social Work Bill; special educational needs, including education, health and care plans and reforms, attainment and progress, high needs funding; rounded and resilient young people, including mental health and character; school sport and personal, social and health education; National Citizen Service; behaviour and attendance, exclusions and alternative provision; pupil premium and pupil premium plus
  • Caroline Dinenage Under secretary of state for women, equalities and early years Childcare and early years, including free childcare expansion; school bullying; sexual orientation and transgender policy; the Equality and Human Rights Commission
  • Nick Gibb Minister of state for school standards Teachers; national schools funding formula; curriculum assessment and qualifications; school accountability, including Ofsted; Education for All Bill
  • Robert Halfon Minister of state for apprenticeships and skills Careers education and guidance in schools; apprenticeships; funding for post-16 provision; further education and sixth form colleges

Communities and Local Government 

  • Sajid Javid Secretary of State for Communities Supporting local government, communities and neighbourhoods; and Troubled Families programme

Home Office

  • Sarah Newton Under secretary of state for vulnerability, safeguarding and countering extremism Drugs and alcohol; antisocial behaviour; crime prevention; gangs and youth crime; child sexual exploitation and abuse; online child abuse; honour-based violence; missing children; FGM; prostitution; domestic violence
  • Robert Goodwill Minister of state for immigration Resettlement policy including the operation of Home Office resettlement programmes for vulnerable children and families

Ministry of Justice

  • Elizabeth Truss Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Overall strategy on criminal justice; penal policy; human rights; and rehabilitation
  • Dr Phillip Lee Under secretary of state for victims, youth and family justice Offender health and mental health; substance misuse; Taylor Review of youth justice; youth custodial estate; YJB; youth sentencing; restorative justice; and family law, family justice and mediation, including Cafcass
  • Sam Gyimah Under secretary of state for prisons and probation Prison reform; custody; offender employment and education; probation services; parole; and sentencing

Department For Work and Pensions

  • Damian Hinds Minister of state for employment Employment strategy; Jobcentre Plus; Youth Contract; family support issues, including childcare, maternity benefits and flexible working
  • Penny Mordaunt Minister of state for disabled people, work and health Cross-government disability issues and disability benefits

Culture, Media and Sport

  • Rob Wilson Minister for civil society Volunteering and social action; voluntary sector; social investment; mutuals; youth work policy; NCS

What do you think? Would you create new departments, or add other areas that may have been overlooked?

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Debate Explores The Future Of Legal Aid

An open event next month, hosted by Halsbury’s hopes to explore issues relating to Legal Aid and Litigants in Person (LIPs).

The debate takes place on 22nd September 2016, 6.30pm -10pm, and will be held at One Great George Street. 

Confirmed speakers to date include:

  • Joshua Rozenberg QC (as chairperson)
  • Sir Robin Knowles
  • Paul Yates (Freshfields)
  • Ruth Daniel (Access to Justice Foundation)

Questions up for debate will include:

  • Where are we on access to justice for those with limited income: how have we got here, and (most importantly) where do we go from here?
  • How do we ensure quality of service for those that receive legal aid?
  • If the future is maintaining current budgets, are there smarter ways of spending which can ensure this has a greater effect/impact?
  • How do we set up a justice system that respects and caters for unrepresented litigants?

This is a free event and hopes to bring together senior figures from politics, the judiciary, the Pro-Bono and Legal Aid communities, campaign bodies and others to discuss Legal Aid and priorities for the future.

If you’d like to attend, you can book your place here.

For anyone unable to attend, you can follow the debate on Twitter, @HLEThinkTank and search the hashtag#HLEDebate.

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The latest child welfare and family law news:


Researching Reform For Jordans

For our column over at Jordans this month, we explain why the appointment of a fourth Chair for the nation’s Independent Child Abuse Inquiry should be viewed as a second chance and what the Inquiry must do now to make the most of that chance.

In the article, we discuss the missing elements to the Inquiry which are currently preventing it from moving forward and we offer some suggestions for improving the Inquiry’s chances of success.

You can catch the article here.

As part of our commitment to transparency we’ve added a short film about Jordans below for anyone wishing to know more about the publication we write for.

Question it!

Welcome to another week.

The Court Of Protection has often raised concerns for the secretive way in which it conducts its business. With far reaching powers like the ability to compel individuals to undergo abortions, surgery and even detain those considered to be mentally impaired in places like hospitals, it is a court with an enormous amount of influence on day-to-day living.

Google “Court of Protection Problems” and a lot of items come up, including an article from The Guardian which explains why the Court Of Protection carries out much of its work behind closed doors. The piece explains that many of the cases the Court hears are private and involve families who would prefer not to let the world in on their personal affairs.

But every now and then a case crops up which blurs the boundary between right to privacy and public interest, and raises questions about the judges who make such draconian orders. The case of Kathleen Danby, a grandmother facing jail for hugging her grand-daughter is one such case. The case began with a contact order which effectively banned Ms Danby from seeing her grand daughter, Janine, who was placed in care.  Ms Danby defied this court order in 2014 by hugging Janine, an event which was caught on CCTV by social workers, and subsequently saw Ms Danby go to jail. Ms Danby faces jail again, after her grand daughter ran away from her care home recently, and tried to make her way to Ms Danby.

Whilst we don’t know the reasons for the order banning contact (the article explains that Ms Danby lives near Janine’s father, so perhaps there are concerns in relation to his conduct), we do know that Janine is 20 years old, an adult in the eyes of the law. Ms Danby is 74 years old, and clearly not deterred by jail time.

No one has yet questioned how Janine was able to run away from her care home not once, but twice. We already know that there are huge numbers of children running away from care homes in England, a phenomenon which continues to place children at risk of exploitation and other forms of harm.

So our question then, is just this: Do you think the Court Of Protection is handling this case in the best way possible, regardless of what the facts may be, or is it unfair to judge without all the information? 




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