In the news

Welcome to another week.

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

Controversial family court judgment “published in error”, says family court president

A controversial document that was published on the judiciary’s website on 23rd November was “published in error”, according to the office of Family Court President Andrew McFarlane.

The document contained graphic details about suggested child sexual abuse, and included a confused preamble which appeared to confirm the document had been approved for publication by the presiding judge, Richard Clarke.

The preamble said:

This judgment was delivered in private. The judge has given leave for this version of the judgment to be published on condition that (irrespective of what is contained in the judgment) in any published version of the judgment the anonymity of the children and members of their family must be strictly preserved. All persons, including representatives of the media, must ensure that this condition is strictly complied with. Failure to do so will be a contempt of court.

Researching Reform tweeted the document after it was published on the judiciary website, but deleted the tweet once the document had been removed from the site.

The document was taken down from global legal database BAILII several hours after publication and removed from the judiciary website more than 24 hours after the initial upload, without any formal announcement from the President’s office about the public availability of the document.

Family law commentators on Twitter had suggested that the file contained at least one reference to a person’s name in its redacted form and additionally, that the document had used the real initials of the parties to the case.

It is not clear whether Judge Clarke had allowed the document to be published due to a lack of understanding about what judgments could be shared, whether he failed to review the document after it had been redacted, and whether parties to the case had been consulted prior to publication.

Researching Reform contacted the President on 26th November to ask for information about the document, and why it had been published and then subsequently removed.

Responding to the request today, a spokesperson for the president’s office said:

“Judges are working hard to publish more family court judgments. In this case the judgment was published in error and every effort was made to remove it from both websites as quickly as possible. We will be reviewing publication protocols.”

London Live speaks with the Best Interests of the Child Review

London Live spoke with the Best Interests of the Child Review (BIC) on Thursday, 25 November, to discuss the review’s purpose, what it hopes to achieve and why children and parents are at the heart of the review.

During the interview, Alicia Edwards asked us how BIC came about, who was leading the review, what it will do over the next few months and what changes we would like to see in children’s social care in Britain.

Apologies to PFAN for getting their name wrong during the interview – the correct name is Parent, Family and Allies Network.

The interview, which aired on London Live’s News At Six, can be viewed here.

The full length version of the interview can be watched here.

Additional links:

Researching Reform contacts the President of the family court about a controversial judgment’s publication

Researching Reform has today written to the President of the Family Division, to ask why a case with graphic details of suggested child sexual abuse was published, and then later removed.

The case involved a father who had sent several thousand texts to his partner in which they both spoke about sexually abusing their own children produced with other partners.

Researching Reform shared the case on Twitter, after it had been uploaded onto the judiciary’s website.

The document offered an important insight into how child sexual abuse within families occurs, and the levels of coercion and manipulation, often of women, associated with this form of violence.

The case was then removed from BAILIII, a global legal database which publishes publicly available cases from courts around the world.

The link to the case on the judiciary’s website remained active throughout the day and the following night, and no notice was issued by the President of the Family Division about the case or the document.

The link on the judiciary’s website appears to have been deactivated this morning, however no formal statement has been issued by the President about whether the document had been published in error, despite the first page of the document being labelled “Judgement Approved” and with the following notice attached:

This judgment was delivered in private. The judge has given leave for this version of the judgment to be published on condition that (irrespective of what is contained in the judgment) in any published version of the judgment the anonymity of the children and members of their family must be strictly preserved. All persons, including representatives of the media, must ensure that this condition is strictly complied with. Failure to do so will be a contempt of court.

We have written to Andrew McFarlane this afternoon to ask for further details about the document, why it was published and why it was subsequently removed. A system which hopes to operate transparently must explain its actions and direct members of the public and the press when events change or documents are taken down.

This is what we wrote to the President:

We will update this site when we receive a response.

Children’s social care stakeholders vow to keep families together after budget cuts make child protection plans unsustainable

County leaders in Britain have called for an “unrelenting focus on keeping families together” wherever possible, following budget cuts which have left councils unable to sustain the vast volume of child protection investigations and care plans initiated by local authorities.

While the move to try and keep families together should be welcomed, the decision itself has stemmed from concern among social care stakeholders that their jobs are at risk following ongoing council budget cuts by the government, rather than a genuine desire to do the right thing by children and their families.

This is an important distinction, and one to keep in mind over the next few months as the landscape of children’s social care is debated and potentially reformed through an economic lens rather than a social justice one.

As the press release for the County Councils Network (CCN) notes, children being taken into care are the most expensive decisions for local authorities.

And now that jobs may be lost, stakeholders are looking for ways to justify funding for other forms of care. The trouble is, most support services on offer are still not good enough and need to be fully reviewed, and where necessary replaced with support that actually works.

The comment by county leaders to try to keep families in need together follows a report produced by the CCN which found that the number of children in care could rise to 95,000 by 2025, up from 69,000 in 2015.

You can access the press release and the report here.

Many thanks to Tum Mum for sharing this press release with us.

In the news

The latest child welfare items that should be right on your radar:

Photo by Mateus Henrique on Pexels.com

Children’s and parents’ experiences of social care

Welcome to another week.

Following the launch of the Best Interests of the Child review (BIC) on Saturday, we’re sharing the project’s testimonials page, which features children’s and their families’ experiences of social care in Britain.

Several of the testimonials are heart breaking. Many more will resonate with our readers. But they are all important experiences highlighting how children’s social care in England and Wales affects children and their families.

If you would like to add your experience to BIC’s testimonials page, you can share it with BIC using their contact form. or email the review at contactbicreview@gmail.com.

Please help the review by keeping testimonials to a maximum of 500 words, so that it can include as many experiences as possible on the site, and place the word ‘TESTIMONIAL’ at the top of the message. Thank you.

The BIC testimonials page can be found here.

Researching Reform launches Britain’s first parent-led review of children’s social care

Today, on World Children’s Day, Researching Reform is launching the Best Interests of the Child Review (BIC) – a complete review into children’s social care in England and Wales.

It is also launching “Children and their Families have Rights” – the first booklet to set out every legal right children and their families have when they go through child welfare and child protection processes in Britain.

BIC is parent-led and places children’s and families’ views at the front of its work. Our review has four main goals:

  • Identify problems affecting children and families inside the social care sector;
  • Offer immediate help and support to children and families impacted by these problems;
  • Highlight the cultural, legal and social work practices creating or contributing to the problems, and share pioneering solutions to those problems and;
  • Produce real-world, workable solutions to address problems, at little or no extra cost to the tax payer.

The review’s lead is Michele Simmons, a care experienced mother who lost her son to adoption but was later reunited. She now works as a groundbreaking researcher looking into irregular adoptions, and pioneered Section 20 consent forms for parents and children. As part of her work, Michele supports and helps other families who have been through, or are going through, public family law proceedings. 

BIC also welcomes Simon Haworth, a lecturer within the Department of Social Work and Social Care at the University of Birmingham. Simon is a core member of the Parents, Families and Allies Network (PFAN), a parent-led organisation which aims to change children’s social work from being child protection and rescue focused to child rights focused in order to strengthen the family and the community.

The review’s website has a testimonials page which features comments from children and families who have experienced the system, and we will keep accepting testimonials from families throughout the review.

The review is not funded by any organisation, body or government department. Every team member for the review is working without financial compensation.

BIC will be holding an “Ask Us Anything” online conference, where attendees can ask us questions about the review. The conference will take place on Wednesday 1 December, 2021 from 5pm to 6pm.

Email the review team at contactbicreview@gmail.com to receive information about how to access the event. Please confirm you would like to attend the event in your message, and let us know if you are a care-experienced child or parent, social care stakeholder, government affiliate, academic, journalist or member of the public.

Links: