The latest

These are the latest child welfare items that should be right on your radar:

Image of the month

This month’s featured image is by Paul Brian Tovey, an adult adoptee who was abused by his adoptive parents as a child. Paul is Researching Reform’s Artist In Residence, which we consider an honour.

Paul now campaigns for adoptees to have the legal right to revert back to their birth identities.

Paul’s paintings reflect his experiences as an adoptee including the effect of his forced adoption on his mental health.

October’s painting is titled, “Enter the Dragon,” which symbolises support for the adoptee community in the form of a ‘truth dragon’. Speaking to Researching Reform, Paul said:

“In the effort to highlight more Adoptee pain and unmet needs which point in themselves to remedial measures, I had some help in designing a new pilot survey which tested whether or not “global adoptee” experience pointed to problems.

In the 2021 UK survey (which was made up of 7 questions) we saw 95 UK adoptees give responses and some showed large amounts of unmet needs for therapy help. We also picked up that 42% were child abused inside their experiences of adoption and 50% wanted revocation eased legally to leave their adoption altogether.

The new 2022 global survey went wider to see what was happening with other adoptees in other countries. The shock is just as bad in the 2022 survey from 304 global respondents as it was from the 2021 survey which had 95 UK Respondents.

A preliminary report of the latest survey will become available because I am mindful of the efforts adoptees put into the survey and I really think they need to see something in summary form. Because the 47 Questions generated hundreds of comments I will carefully examine those for any accidental identifiers and do more follow-up reports. Some questions generated enough comments to be justified as a survey in themselves.

I am an artist and I cope with seeing so much pain by drawing matters and recording them inside an “inner-scape”, where things are bravely faced and are seen to be “Inner-scapeable”. I draw the tears others cannot cry sometimes, but I do.”

The latest child welfare complaints published by the Ombudsman

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has published the latest round of complaints submitted by parents and carers to the body, and its decisions about those complaints. They touch on children’s social care, local authority handling of child protection cases and the provision of education and educational support.

The complaints bulletin was paused during the national mourning period following Queen Elizabeth’s death. The ombudsman says decisions were published on its website during that time, and can be explored by doing a search for the relevant council.

Children and Education

Please note: decisions are published six weeks after they are issued to councils, care providers and the person who has made the complaint. The cases below reflect the caselaw and guidance available.

Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council (21 016 025)

Summary: Mr X complains the Council failed to ensure provision in his daughter Y’s Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan was delivered. The Council was at fault as it failed to ensure Y received the speech and language therapy set out in her Plan. The Council has agreed to make a symbolic payment to Mr X of £300 to acknowledge the loss of provision to Y in line with the Plan.

Sunderland City Council (22 006 072)

Summary: We cannot investigate this complaint about how the Council responded to concerns about bullying in a school. This is because the complaint flows from the internal management of a school, which we have no jurisdiction to consider. The law says we cannot consider complaints about the actions of councils in relation to matters that are outside our jurisdiction.

London Borough of Southwark (22 000 953)

Summary: Mr X complained about the Council’s failure to address his immigration status whilst he was a looked after child. We find the Council is at fault for failing to deal with Mr X’s complaint through the statutory children’s complaints process. The Council has agreed to apologise to Mr X and investigate his complaint through the statutory complaints process.

Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council (22 005 194)

Summary: We will not investigate Mr X’s complaint that the financial remedy offered by the Council is not enough. That is because further investigation will not lead to a different outcome.

Peterborough City Council (21 008 178)

Summary: Mr and Mrs X complained the Council failed to provide suitable education for their son and did not adhere to the Special Education Needs (SEN) Code when reviewing their son’s Education and Healthcare (EHC) plan. They also complained there were failings in the consultation with schools and the Council failed to properly respond to their complaint. We found the Council was at fault and recommended a remedy.

London Borough of Richmond upon Thames (21 010 908)

Summary: Mr and Mrs B complained the Council failed to secure adequate education and other provision to help meet their daughter’s special educational needs between March 2019 and July 2021. The Council’s contractor acknowledged fault and offered a remedy for the injustice caused. We reconsidered that remedy taking account of costs incurred by Mr and Mrs B in meeting their daughter’s needs and the Council’s contractor agreed a revised remedy, detailed in this statement.

Devon County Council (22 005 154)

Summary: We will not investigate Ms X’s complaint about Education Health and Care Plan annual review issues. We cannot investigate the same issues a Tribunal is considering. And it is not appropriate at this time to consider separable issues.

Tunbridge Wells Girls Grammar School (22 005 630)

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Ms X’s complaint about an unsuccessful appeal for a school place. This is because there is not enough evidence of fault.

Norfolk County Council (21 009 698)

Summary: Mr X complained about the way the Council’s Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) determined allegations made about his professional practice. Because Mr X issued legal proceedings, we discontinued our investigation.

Manchester City Council (22 000 346)

Summary: The Council was not at fault in how it decided the level of support it provided to Ms X’s children. Its assessments of risk were evidence-based and carried out in consultation with other agencies. It followed published procedures and responded to developments as they occurred. When the risk to Ms X’s children had reduced, it ended its involvement. We have found no fault with the Council.

London Borough of Bexley (22 004 960)

Summary: We will not investigate Miss X’s complaint about children’s placement with her in 2014. There are no good reasons why the late complaint rule should not apply.

Kent County Council (22 005 761)

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about the Council’s response to the complainant’s concerns about his daughter’s welfare. This is because there is no evidence of fault on the Council’s part.

London Borough of Islington (22 005 589)

Summary: We will not investigate Ms X’s complaint about delays in the Council issuing an Education Health and Care Plan. It is unlikely we could achieve a significantly different remedy than already offered.

Buckinghamshire Council (22 005 756)

Summary: We will not investigate Ms X’s complaint about the Learning Support Assistance to her child. There are no good reasons the late complaint rule should not apply.

North Somerset Council (22 006 039)

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mrs X’s complaint that the Council’s Schools Admissions Appeal Panel failed to provide her child with a place at School Y. It is unlikely the Ombudsman would find fault which caused them to lose out on a school place.

Cambridgeshire County Council (22 006 087)

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about the Council’s decision to deny the complainant’s daughter free school transport. This is because her eligibility can be considered through the Council’s appeal process.

Norfolk County Council (21 010 937)

Summary: The Council was at fault for unfairly alleging that Ms X prevented staff members from leaving her home during a visit, and for requiring that she sign a ‘safety plan’ which implied the same. It has agreed to correct its records, apologise to Ms X and make a small, symbolic payment to recognise her injustice.

Cheshire East Council (21 016 659)

Summary: Mr X complained the Council failed to provide him with support while he was in a private fostering arrangement with a child, Y. Mr X said this caused him stress and meant he could not maintain the arrangement. We do not find the Council at fault.

Torbay Council (22 005 201)

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about the Council failing to involve Ms X in the decision making following her daughter being hospitalised. This is because there is insufficient fault to justify an investigation.

London Borough of Harrow (22 005 377)

Summary: We cannot investigate this complaint about issues connected to matters decided in court. This is because we have no legal remit to investigate.

Coventry City Council (22 006 122)

Summary: We cannot investigate Mr X’s complaint about a report written by the Council for court proceedings involving his children. This is because the issues Mr X raises are not separable from the matters before the family court.

Warwickshire County Council (22 006 333)

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about a report written by a council officer. This is because the complaint raises issues connected to a court order. So, we have no remit to investigate.

Sheffield City Council (21 011 029)

Summary: Miss F complains about the way the Council dealt with her son’s special educational and social care needs. There was some fault which caused uncertainty to her son. The Council has agreed to apologise and pay him £300 to acknowledge this.

Wakefield City Council (21 011 155)

Summary: Ms X complained about lack of education and support for her son, C, under his Education, Health and Care Plan while he was out of school during the COVID-19 pandemic because of his vulnerability to risk of infection. We find that at first the Council took reasonable steps to ensure he received education. But it was at fault in failing to provide some therapy support. It also failed to consider its duties to provide alternative education for C while out of school for reasons other than illness, and instead approved a part-time ‘flexi-schooling’ agreement which made Ms X responsible for the costs of providing education at home. The Council has agreed a suitable remedy including reimbursing Ms X’s reasonable expenses in funding education herself, and a reminder to officers about the Council’s duties.

Royal Borough of Greenwich (21 014 267)

Summary: Mrs X complained the Council wrongly refused to provide her daughter, who has special educational needs, with school transport. There was fault in the way the Council considered Mrs X’s application and appeal which means she cannot be sure it reached the correct decision. This fault may have affected others. The Council should reconsider Mrs X’s application and review its policy and procedures.

West Sussex County Council (22 004 552)

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about the Council failing to follow court agreed plans for his children after they were taken into care. This is because the issues raised are not separable from court proceedings.

Hartlepool Borough Council (22 004 726)

Summary: We cannot investigate Mr X’s complaint about the Council’s handling of matters relating to his grandson because it lies outside our jurisdiction. This is because the matter is closely linked to ongoing court proceedings. The law prevents us from considering complaints about matters that are being, or have been, considered in court. We have no discretion to do so.

Herefordshire Council (22 004 957)

Summary: We will not investigate Miss X’s complaint about children services actions. It is unlikely we could achieve the outcomes she seeks.

Southampton City Council (22 005 655)

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about the Council’s involvement with the complainant and her daughter because we cannot achieve anything significant by doing so.

Hampshire County Council (21 018 072)

Summary: We will not investigate Mr and Ms X’s complaint about delays in the Council issuing an Education Health and Care Plan. The Tribunal is currently considering the case. We also cannot investigate Mr and Ms X’s allegations of disability discrimination against a school.

Lincolnshire County Council (22 005 250)

Summary: We will not investigate Ms X’s complaint the Council delayed issuing amended education and health care (EHC) plans and has not named a new school for her child, Y, from this September. Ms X complains late about the earlier history. She used her right of appeal to the SEND Tribunal on the EHC plan issued last year. It is reasonable for Ms X to use her right of appeal again if there is a dispute about naming a new school.

Suffolk County Council (22 005 391)

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about the Council’s decision not to provide her son with post-16 transport assistance. This is because the Council has now agreed to Mrs X’s request and so an investigation could not achieve anything more.

London Borough of Lewisham (21 017 724)

Summary: Miss X complained the Council failed to property her from harm between 1999 and 2001. The Council has agreed to investigate Miss X’s complaint under the children’s statutory complaints procedure so we ended our investigation.

Royal Borough of Greenwich (22 003 528)

Summary: We will not investigate Ms X’s complaint about the Council changing a looked after child’s bank account. It is unlikely we would recommend any further remedy.

London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham (22 005 320)

Summary: We will not investigate Ms X’s complaint about her child no longer living with her. We cannot investigate matters which a Court considered.

Essex County Council (22 005 336)

Summary: We will not investigate Ms X’s complaint about the Council’s children services actions in response to a safeguarding referral. It is unlikely we will find fault or could achieve a significantly different outcome.

Salford City Council (22 005 339)

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint that the Council was at fault in sharing confidential information. This is because the Information Commissioner is better placed to consider such matters.

London Borough of Lewisham (22 005 480)

Summary: We cannot investigate Ms X’s complaint the Council took care proceedings on her children who were raised with other families. We cannot lawfully investigate actions which are part of court proceedings.

Durham County Council (22 006 102)

Summary: We will not investigate Miss X’s complaint about the Council’s Schools Admissions Appeal Panel’s failure to provide her child with a place at School Y. It is unlikely the Ombudsman would find fault which caused her to lose out on a school place.

In the news

These are the latest child welfare items that should be right on your radar:

Resources: House of Commons Library

There are only a handful of good resources for children’s social care provided by the government, and the House of Commons library has long been one of our favourites at Researching Reform.

What makes the library so good is that the editors there produce briefing papers whenever a children’s social care or child protection issue makes the news, or Parliament holds a debate on a topic related to these issues.

Additionally, the papers are written in clear and straightforward English, any sector-specific jargon is explained well, and the briefings are usually accompanied by a really good background summary of the topic.

Finally, the papers seek to offer as many perspectives on an issue as possible, and usually always include links to helpful organisations or to more reading materials.

You can see we are fans of the library.

You can search the library using its different search functions, and it is refreshingly easy to navigate.

For example, you can search their social policy research, or explore their documents by topic in the social policy section (scroll down to find the topics box).

If you have any questions for us, let us know in the comments section below this post.

In the news

These are the latest child welfare items that should be right on your radar:

The latest

Welcome to another week.

These are the latest child welfare stories that should be right on your radar:

Increased trauma for families experiencing local authority involvement – new research

Local authority intervention leads to increased trauma scores in parents, according to research approved by St. Mary’s University in London.

The research, titled, ““How does the experience of going to court affect the  relationship between doctors and parents making best  interests decisions on behalf of children?” was produced by Nicola Adolphe as part of her Masters in Bioethics and Medical Law, at the university.

The research looked at the levels of trauma experienced by parents in two key categories: local authority intervention, and domestic abuse. Adolphe interviewed 25 parents for her research, 13 of whom were victims of domestic abuse.

The research found that in the domestic abuse group, the average ‘trauma score’ was 53, a figure consistent with a ‘severe’ post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) rating.

However in the LA intervention group the average score was nearly 61, a number considered to be consistent with ‘extreme’ PTSD  symptoms, and an average increase of 7 points compared to parents in the domestic abuse group. Additionally, the majority of parents reported concerns with their mental health, while suicidal thoughts were frequently noted. 

The dissertation also noted that the increased LA intervention trauma scores could be related to the following two factors: the fear parents described of losing their children in care proceedings, and/or the often brutal way in which parents were treated by social workers.

The dissertation said:

“The finding that Local Authority intervention leads to increased trauma scores, even when  domestic violence is not present, is significant. Some of the parents in the DA group had  been victims of physical violence to the point of broken bones (Flora, Tamara, Erica), yet  these cases were not scoring as high, on average, as the removal of a child by the Local  Authority.

It is unclear whether this finding is as a result of the strategies employed by the  local authority when seeking to remove a child, which, if the parents’ accounts were  accurate, sounded callous and cruel, or whether it is the physical separation of the parent  from the child that increases the trauma. Since the fear of losing a child was strongly repeated in both groups,26 it is proposed that separation of the child is the key factor to  increased trauma scores.

Katz (2015) identifies that strong mother-child relationships  can mitigate against the psychological trauma of domestic abuse, and similarly, where the  parental relationships are broken, there could be increased psychological ramifications (Willow). Erica’s and Leo’s were both deeply moving accounts of the separation of the child,  but were not reflected as high in their scores. They both described a ‘numbing’ over the  years the cases have continued, which may distort the true trauma within their accounts.”

Despite the dissertation focusing on medical professionals’ responses to families, Adolphe noted in the research that parents found social workers to be the least pleasant of all the professionals they dealt with.

Adolphe, who now runs the Autonomy Hotline which aims to resist coercion in health and social care, told Researching Reform why she decided to focus her dissertation on a family court issue:

“I fell into this work completely by accident. Shortly after our fifth child was born, she became very poorly and was in a neonatal intensive care unit for a brief period of time. Our baby had a heart problem and doctors felt I was being over-protective of the child and was a risk to the family.

I was referred to social services and they removed her from our care.

It was horrifying how quickly and easily it happened and I couldn’t believe what went on in this country under the guise of ‘safeguarding’.

Luckily, we were able to successfully refute allegations and close the case against us. Once things had calmed down, I needed an opportunity to unpick the trauma and research what happens in other cases.

I stumbled upon the Bioethics and Medical Law Masters course at St Mary’s Twickenham, and took a leap into philosophy and ethics, which I had never done before, but I fell in love with the subject and was really glad I took that leap of faith.

I concentrated all my effort into the dissertation opportunity to research medical issues in family law. This is my analysis of 25 parents who were all going through the Best Interests Test. The research has led to building an advocacy service for families affected by issues of coercive behaviour of professionals.”

Adolphe’s research can be accessed here. 

A power point presentation of the research can be found here.

Families who would like to contact the Autonomy Hotline can do so by calling 0333 772 1227.