In The News

Welcome to another week.

As some of our readers noticed last week, we accidentally published a draft story we were still working on. As of this morning we are still gathering information, so please do bear with us as we finalise the piece.

In the meantime, these are the news items that should be right on your radar:


Government Holds Children’s Social Care Debate IN SECRET.

A government debate on children’s social care hosted by the Backbench Business Committee took place yesterday. In an unusual move, the Committee did not send out details about the debate before it was held in the House of Commons.

The debate which was sponsored by Tim Loughton MP and initially scheduled to take place in October, was quietly cancelled last year without notice after thousands of parents across the UK expressed interest in the discussion. Some families had set aside funds to travel down to the event, while others had arranged to take the day off work at personal expense to attend. Backbench Committee debates are open to the public. Families across the country reacted to the cancellation with disappointment, while some parents criticised the government for what they felt was a cowardly decision


We asked Tim for a further update on the event in November, but did not receive a response. The children’s social care debate which took place on 17 January first came to this site’s attention this morning, after seeing a tweet by Labour MP, Emma Lewell-Buck which featured a video clip of her speaking at the event. Unlike the original discussion set to take place in October, the debate held yesterday afternoon did not feature in any of the Backbench Committee’s email updates.

The committee also failed to provide timely and detailed information about the event through its own dedicated page on the Parliament website, choosing this time round to publish only the bare minimum on a sub-page of a Research Briefings section within the site just two days before the event. The page does not offer any information on the time-slot for the debate, who is hosting it, where it will be held in the Commons or when a transcript of the discussion might be available. The only information offered is a summary report on children’s social care. 


The debate was opened by Tim Loughton MP and started at around 3pm. Discussions went on for two hours, ending at 5pm. MPs who took part included Parliamentary Under Secretary Nadhim Zahawi, Emma Lewell-Buck, Alex Burghart, Karen Lee, Lyn Brown, Vicky Ford, Laura Smith, Mohammad Yasin and Luke Pollard. You can watch the discussion on Parliament TV. 

The transcript of the debate is also available in Hansard.

Many thanks to Michael Roberts for sharing the link to the debate on Parliament TV.



Adoption Agency Caught Illegally Registering Births Goes Into Voluntary Liquidation

An adoption agency in Ireland which was found to have registered births illegally has gone into voluntary liquidation.

St Patrick’s Guild’s liquidation which was announced in December comes seven months after The Department of Children and Youth Affairs confirmed that the agency had been responsible for 126 births being illegally registered between 1946 and 1969. The liquidation raises questions over whether potential and pending legal claims against the agency will ever be settled.

The phenomenon, which goes hand in hand with illegal adoptions, is not just a historic one. Last year media outlet the Irish Examiner revealed documented cases of illegal adoptions and illegal birth registrations taking place in Ireland as recently as 2010. The newspaper also revealed that the Adoption Authority (AAI) had warned the department about the size of the problem on three separate occasions, first in 2011, then in 2013, and again in 2015.

The news of  the illegal birth registrations at St Patrick’s Guild led to Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone announcing a “scoping exercise”, to see whether the practice was widespread. The exercise, which began last year, involves the forensic examination of records.  The final report was due in October 2018, but has now been delayed until April, as the number of potential illegal adoption cases continues to rise. The Times reported in June that a further 140 cases of possible illegal adoptions were being investigated by Ireland’s Children’s Minister.

The department has declined to reveal details of the 150,000 records that have been examined in the review or the methodology used. The scoping exercise has also been criticised in Ireland for only focusing on illegal registrations instead of including all types of illegal adoption.

Families in Britain are also accusing  local authorities of registering births and adoptions illegally with documented cases seen by this site as recently as last year. A growing number of birth parents who have lost children to the care system are calling out adoption agencies who fail to record their child’s details properly on adoption certificates, and in some instances never going through with the adoption at all. Child rights campaigner Michele Simmons, who made a Freedom of Information request in 2017, is concerned that the errors are deliberate omissions made with a view to making children taken into state care untraceable.

Simmons would like policy around adoption certificates changed so that every agency and council is under a mandatory duty to provide parents with copies of adoption certificates as soon as they are produced.

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Question It!

Welcome to another week.

A former police officer has been spared jail after 1,000 indecent images of children were found in his home – some of which he had made – because of his work exposing paedophiles. Lee Kelly was given a 10-month sentence, which has been suspended for two years.

The judge told Kelly that he felt it would be unjust to send him to prison immediately because of his previous good work during his career as a police officer. It is unclear whether any of the child abuse images were made or gathered during the time he served as a police officer, although media reports suggests this may have been the case. It is also not clear whether the police officer collected and produced images with a view to catching offending paedophiles or for his own use. There is some suggestion from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) that Kelly was using the images for sexual gratification.

Despite the lack of clarity on issues going to motive, the CPS did not request a trial of fact to determine why Kelly downloaded the images in the first instance.

Our question to you this week then, is this: do you agree with the officer’s sentence? 




New APPG For Survivors Of Child Sexual Abuse Criticised Over Inappropriate Questionnaire

A new All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) set up for adults who experienced sexual abuse as children has been criticised by members of the public over a survey it published last month.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse, whose Chair and founder is Rotherham MP Sarah Champion was launched to explore and identify the support and justice needs of adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

As part of this effort the parliamentary group put together a survey to find out about survivor’s experiences of being abused as children. The survey includes around 14 questions grouped into five categories: disclosure, disclosure and support, reporting, the criminal justice process and demographics.

The first question, which asks for information on which country or region the individual experienced abuse, has to be answered before you can continue on to the next question. Respondents can then choose which of the remaining 13 questions, or segments, they’d like to answer.

The survey was posted on the MP’s Facebook page in December, and social media users were quick to point out its flaws. Several posters said that the survey was filled with leading questions, while others commented on the language used within the survey.

A Facebook user who commented on the post was surprised that the survey did not offer any options for survivors to explain that they were not aware that what was happening to them at the time was abuse. Another member of the public was concerned about the levels of awareness at the APPG on transgender issues, which the survey touches upon in its questions. Other posters were sceptical of the APPG’s intentions, viewing its survey as an exercise in gathering information to limit the government’s responsibilities for the child sexual abuse scandals that have emerged within state-run schools, care homes and sports clubs, and also questioning whether the APPG consulted with survivors before producing the survey.

Sarah Champion first came to the media’s attention when she criticised certain parts of the Muslim community in Britain after a large-scale grooming operation made up of Pakistani men abusing caucasian girls was exposed in her constituency. In July last year Champion had to increase her security detail after receiving several death threats, and faced being expelled from the Labour party for her remarks.

The APPG was launched on 13th November, 2018, and has an almost exclusively female officer base: Lilian Greenwood, Dr Lisa Cameron, Lucy Allan, Mrs Pauline Latham, Baroness Hollins, Baroness Uddin and Baroness Burt of Solihull. Jim Shannon is the only male officer at the APPG. The Secretariat for the Group is The Survivors Trust and is not listed on the Parliamentary Register though it should be, according to APPG Rules.

In a statement on her website, Champion offers a summary of the first meeting held by the APPG and outlines the Group’s plans for the coming year and beyond:

“The APPG will focus its initial efforts on consulting with victims, survivors and support services to issue a response to the Government’s Victims Strategy consultation, set to launch in early 2019. The APPG will host evidence sessions in Parliament, obtain the views of victims and survivors directly. The APPG will aim to highlight the need for specialist support services and to improve access to justice for adult survivors.”

Anyone who wishes to take part in the survey can do so here. Those who would just like to look at the questions can see them below.

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Government Announces £45 Million In Funding To Recruit More Children’s Social Workers

The government announced this morning that it will be boosting the number of children’s social workers in the UK through a £45 million initiative which will aim to train up around 900 social workers by 2021.

The funding was secured by just one social work charity. Frontline, whose patrons include Labour MP Lord Adonis, and former Head of the Downing Street Policy Unit Camilla Cavendish, secured the multimillion-pound grant to recruit and train would-be children and family social workers. The grant was awarded after Frontline produced its own research suggesting that 44% of adults aged 18 – 34 were considering a change of career this year. The research also claims that a quarter of millennials (25%) would prioritise purpose over pay.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds says the recruitment drive will produce better social workers able to deliver a service that will do children justice, though it is unclear how funding alone might achieve better social work practice across the country.

The Department for Education’s press release points out that Frontline is a ‘top graduate recruiter’ which has trained over 1,000 people through its programme since 2013, but as social work practice is not improving throughout the country, this raises serious questions about the charity’s ability to deliver professional social workers. There is also no evidence offered in the press release – or the charity’s website –  to show that Frontline’s training programme is better than any other across the United Kingdom.


In the press release the Education Secretary offers the following comments:

“Social workers are heroes, often unsung, of our society – working on the frontline to offer care and support to some of the most vulnerable children and families in the country.

Children’s social care is only as good as the people who deliver it, which is why we want to recruit, retain and develop the best social workers, so they can continue to offer the much-needed lifeline to those who need it most.

That’s why the Government is supporting Frontline with £45 million to continue their work in attracting and training bright graduates and career changers, who aspire for a rewarding career as a social worker.”


Government Considers Offering Grandparents New Access Rights Post Separation – Again.

Justice Minister Lucy Frazer QC has agreed to review the rules relating to grandparents seeking access to their grandchildren after separation or divorce. Currently there is no legal presumption to such access, with the law requiring grandparents to apply to the family court to secure access rights and then request a child arrangement order to secure contact.

The same promise to review grandparents’ contact rights was made by the government in 2011, after the Family Justice Review was launched with a view to improving the family court. Grandparents in the UK had hoped that the outcome of the Review would support a change in the law. Instead, the Review’s final report recommended that legislation requiring grandparents to ask for leave to apply for contact should remain in place to prevent what it called hopeless or vexatious applications not in the interests of the child. (P.21).

Grandparents’ groups in the UK have been campaigning for over a decade to make the law and policy around post separation contact easier for grandchildren to see their grandparents. Nigel Huddleston MP will be meeting with the Minister to discuss how to change the law this month, though it’s not clear why the MP for Mid Worcestershire has come forward.

Lucy Frazer told The Express in December that she would be exploring ways to keep the grandparent-grandchild relationship alive after separation and divorce:

“Grandparents play an important role in the lives of their grandchildren, and I sympathise with those who experience the anguish of being prevented from seeing their grandchildren if a parental relationship ends.

“I am looking at what measures the Government could take to help more grandchildren maintain contact with grandparents following parental separation and will make an announcement about the Government’s plans in due course.”