Social Worker Struck Off For Belittling And Endangering Domestic Violence Victim

A social worker has been struck off after an audio recording emerged in which he made degrading comments about a victim of domestic violence, and shared her whereabouts with the man convicted of assaulting her. The incidents took place within a child protection investigation.

The man had been accused of standing on the pregnant woman’s face and threatening to pour oil on her. She later escaped by jumping out of a window.

The social worker, who has not been named, called the woman a “pathological liar” and said she was “bi-polar”. The HCPC conduct and competence committee reviewing the case said the social worker’s tone in the recording was “wholly disrespectful” and “bordering on degrading”.

Of greater concern was the social worker’s decision to tell the man accused of abusing the woman, the location and times of meetings she would be attending, putting her and her unborn child at risk. He also discussed confidential information the woman gave to a local support group.

The committee concluded that the social worker had abused a position of trust and potentially jeopardised an ongoing police investigation.

Whilst the social work professional admitted to all the allegations, he appeared to show no remorse.

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Question It!

Welcome to another week.

A recent article in the New Zealand Herald calls out a practice in the country’s Family Court called ‘uplifting’. (WARNING: article features highly distressing video footage).

The practice can involve physically removing a child from persons or premises in order to return them to a parent whose custodial rights have been breached.

There may be no warning that the uplift is going to take place, and police are often called in to remove children.

Uplifts occur after an aggrieved parent applies for a warrant to have their child returned. The use of ‘reasonable force’  is allowed where considered appropriate. The element of force and a sharp rise in the use of uplifts, are causing concern.

Video footage showing children in acute distress during the removal process has sparked outrage in New Zealand. New Zealand Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern called the recordings “horrific” and observed that being forcibly removed from the home was clearly traumatic for children.

Professor Mark Henaghan, who is Dean of the faculty of Law at the University of Otago, said the Family Court had lost sight of their duty to place children’s welfare first and that the uplifts were ‘terrorising the children involved.’ He goes on to say:

“It’s become a battle of enforcement between the parents, courts, saying we’ve made an order, therefore it has to be enforced otherwise the court’s not carrying out its job…But the primary job of the [Family] Court is the welfare of the child. And I think if they saw some of the consequences of some of these warrants they may look at it differently.”

Speaking about the role of the police in uplifts, Police Association president Chris Cahill said the measure was also hard on police as officers were effectively “pawns” in the “wider games by parents”. He goes on to say:

“Often the police doing [uplifts] are the younger ones and they are only five or six years older than the children they are removing and that is tough on them.”

Cahill suggests that social workers should be tasked with carrying out uplifts.

The Labour party in New Zealand has continuously called for a review of the country’s Family Court, and more informed decision making before judges grant warrants to remove children.

Our question this week then, is just this: do you think the use of reasonable force to remove a child is ever ok?

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Former Abuse Inquiry Panelist: Counsel Silenced Me So That May Could Become Prime Minister.

In a controversial interview released today, former Child Abuse Inquiry panel member Sharon Evans makes a startling number of revelations about the Inquiry.

A child abuse survivor and journalist who founded children’s charity Dot Com, Sharon accuses the Inquiry of trying to stifle concerns about the way the investigation was being run so that Theresa May could be pushed into office as Prime Minister.

Ms Evans also said that there was no independence whatsoever at the Inquiry, and that the confidentiality clause which all panel members had to sign, effectively prevented her and others from exposing the truth.

She goes on to allege that Ben Emmerson QC, who was lead counsel for the Inquiry at the time, warned her that if she made her concerns public, she would be discredited. Sharon tells Talk Radio:

“I was taken to one side and it was made clear to me, I was told that Theresa May was going to be the Prime Minister, this inquiry was going to be part of this, and that if I didn’t toe the line and do as I was told, if I tried to get information out, I would be discredited by her advisors.”

Ms Evans also claims that she was given a 23 page document which she was to take her cues from when speaking to the Home Affairs Select Committee. The restrictions left her feeling unable to tell the Committee what she felt was the truth about the Inquiry and the way in which it was being governed.

In answer to the radio host’s question about who she felt was responsible for trying to suppress information, Ms Evans replied, The Home Office.

Ms Evans first came to the public’s attention for her initial attempts at speaking out about what she felt were internal conflicts within the Inquiry. She also went head to head with then lead counsel Ben Emmerson, telling the Home Affairs Select Committee that Mr Emmerson had threatened and intimidated panel members whilst acting as interim Chair for the Inquiry. Emmerson retaliated by telling the Committee that Evans had done “a great deal of damage” to the Inquiry.

The Home Office, which Miss Evans says is responsible for sweeping important information under the carpet, had previously sent Evans a letter accusing her of “extremely serious” breaches of confidentiality, a letter which the Home Affairs Committee went on to publish.

Fast forward two years and current Inquiry Chair, Professor Alexis Jaye, suspects that there are forces at work trying to destroy her investigation. She cites the incident of alleged sexual assault at the Inquiry as the catalyst for its near death experience.

Professor Jaye told the media in July of this year that “dark forces” were attempting to shut her down, and that, “strong vested interests would like to see this inquiry implode… There are institutions which would prefer to see us fail, because we are such a threat.’

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Question It!

Welcome to another week.

Well known vigilante group Dark Justice were interviewed on LBC earlier this year, claiming that their work is vital in stopping child abusers.

Another interview on LBC over the weekend featured a victim of child abuse who said vigilante groups were responsible for catching paedophiles the police had been unable to arrest.

This latest interview comes after police called on vigilante groups to take a step back, alleging that their activities were frustrating police operations. Senior officers have also expressed concern at the methods vigilantes used.

The warning comes as Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced £20 million funding in March to extend an initiative allowing undercover detectives to operate in internet chat rooms and forums used by suspected offenders. The government would not comment on how its operatives would conduct themselves within these operations.

In June this year, Angus McPherson, Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire, invited vigilantes to come and work for him. 

A ruling in April confirmed that vigilante groups could pose as children online in order to catch paedophiles. The judgment allows vigilante groups to operate without regulation.

Our question this week then, is just this: do you think vigilantes should be allowed to operate independently of the police?

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In The News

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

Thank you to Nick for sharing the first news item with us.

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Please Help Us Raise Awareness Of This Little Known Children’s Cancer

Three months ago my cousin was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer which tends to affect boys.

His courage and dignity as he fights this disease, and his desire to raise awareness of it, is simply outstanding.

This is his story.

“Yes, I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, but I am beating it with the know-how of my doctors, surgeon and the love and support of my family and friends and with a strong positive attitude.

I would like to raise awareness of this disease so people catch it before metastasis. The form of osteosarcoma I was diagnosed with commonly occurs at the age of 14 to 15 years and more frequently in boys. This is a disease that can come to the best of us and the worst of us. Take your ongoing aches and pains seriously and get yourself checked out. Medicine is an amazing thing and it has come along way; as has surgery.

The process can be very difficult emotionally, physically and mentally but you have to stay strong and positive. There are MRIs, three hour-long scans blood tests galore, intrusive procedures and so much more. The side effects of chemo can be every bit as horrendous as you have heard and read…. dreadful nausea, partial or full hair loss; body aches and pains that you just can’t imagine.

Life is worth living so you can see this through. I feel a purpose… I need you to be aware that this disease exists but you can all overcome difficulties that life brings to your door. I will be here to help you where I can, and give you knowledge of my experience. I have researched this disease, its treatment process, the medication, suitable diet and lifestyle and I will be here for you any time you need me. thank you all for your concerns love and understanding.”

Follow Kammy on Instagram @kamraan_phz

On behalf of Kammy, please may I ask you to share this post so that he can reach more people struggling to cope with this disease. Thank you.

Natasha xxxx

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The Buzz

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

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Damning Judgment Reveals Another Council Illegally Removing Children From Parents

A family court judge has called out a council for acting with ‘subterfuge and immediacy’ for illegally removing a child from her parents. 

The comments represent the latest within a growing number of judgments calling out councils for illegal and unethical behaviour in their practices of social care and forced adoption. 

Gloucesteshire county council finally apologised to the parents after a hearing in which Judge Stephen Wildblood set out an astounding list of errors, which included:

  • Failing to place the child, who was under two at the time, with her father in the event of removal from her mother, as set out in the care order
  • Taking 6 weeks to return the baby to the mother, who was breastfeeding at the time
  • Breaching their legal duty to give parents 14 days’ notice prior to removing their child
  • Failing to seek legal advice despite having a strong feeling that the removal was illegal
  • Failing to consider other placement alternatives for the child, including an approved paternal aunt, instead of placing the baby with strangers
  • Failing to take into consideration the mother’s vulnerability and fragile condition
  • Failing to scrutinise and properly manage the child’s care plan
  • Failing to keep adequate records of meetings and decision making
  • Removing the child from her mother’s care without just cause

Had it not been for the mother’s application to try to get her baby back, these failings would have gone unnoticed, and she would have lost her daughter to the care system forever. Wildblood observes in his judgment that the mother should never have had to bring proceedings herself, without any legal aid, as she was considered vulnerable.

Some quotes from the case:

Judge Wildblood:

“In my opinion it is clear that the local authority acted in a way that was contrary to case law and in breach of the article 8 rights of both parents and the child.”“

The very basis of the original care proceedings was that the mother is an emotionally fragile and socially vulnerable woman… Therefore, for her to have faced the issues that arose on her own is manifestly unsatisfactory.”

The mother:

“[I am] relieved and extremely happy that my child is back in my care… [it has been] an incredibly distressing and traumatic time… While the local authority has accepted its failings, I hope that no other family suffers in the way my family has.”

OFTSED had rated the council inadequate, with multiple failings identified at management level. The Guardian to the case is now expected to file an application on behalf of the child for damages under the Human Rights Act. There will also be an independent review of the case.

Given that these failings are not unique to this council, an independent review is not enough. There needs to be a review at national level, of all councils specifically looking at the rules and regulations in place within each council for care proceedings, how those rules and regulations are being implemented and why councils are failing to follow the law.

We invite the government to undertake a review of child protection practices in every local authority. A review of this kind has not been done before and unlike other reviews, this would allow us to finally understand the gaps in council practice in this area, and even more importantly, to ensure those gaps are filled.

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Emojis, Pen Pals & Plain English: The Judge Who Wants To Be Down With The Kids.

The British legal system is famous for being slow when it comes to adapting to change, but occasionally individuals inside the system try to move things along.

Judge Peter Jackson has hit the headlines for publishing an unconventional Family Court judgment about a fourteen year old boy involved in a contact dispute. The judgment includes a letter addressed to the boy, known as ‘Sam’, in which the judge explains how family law matters are resolved, and the reasons behind his decision. Jackson even invites Sam to reply to his letter if he’d like to.

The inclusion of a letter to a child in a judgment, and the invitation to write back to a judge are highly unusual but clearly designed to empower children going through the court process.

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This is not the first time Justice Jackson has tried to address child rights concerns inside the Family Court. In 2016 he produced the first ever judgment incorporating emojis, with a view to making the text more accessible to the children involved in the case. Judge Jackson also used simple language and clear phrasing to make the judgment easier to follow.

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Going beyond the current requirements of a judge has become Jackson’s trademark. He once visited a dying girl in hospital, whose case he was presiding over, at the young girl’s request. She told Justice Jackson that she wanted to be cryogenically frozen so she could come back in the future.

And you might remember a terribly sad case involving a 13 month old baby called Poppi Worthington, who died of horrific injuries at the hands of her father. It was Judge Jackson who listed 12 separate failings by police which may have contributed to Poppi’s death. Jackson’s judgment was followed by a House Of Commons debate calling for an Inquiry into her death.

Pro active and eager to inform himself, Justice Jackson was a participant at the Slovak Embassy’s Round Table discussion on child protection in 2015, alongside former President Of The Family Division James Munby. The discussion was held during the height of a child protection scandal involving UK based children from Slovakia.

Jackson’s interests don’t just span child rights and access to justice, he is a keen advocate of transparency too. In 2011 he was responsible for a landmark ruling in The Court Of Protection, where he granted the media permission to name all the parties in the case. It was the first time that a judge in The Court Of Protection allowed this kind of identification to take place.

A pioneer, Jackson clearly has several firsts under his belt. Whilst we think he can do more – and we make no comment about his line of reasoning in the recent letter to Sam, or the effectiveness of the emojis sprinkled inside last year’s judgment – these actions represent developments which judges in the Family Court should acknowledge, and try to better.

An interesting judge trying to reach our children, and listen to their innermost voices.

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