Four films which feature child protection themes have been aired over the last few months to critical acclaim, and so we thought we would share them.
TRIGGER WARNING: please bear in mind that some of the trailers in this post may contain distressing images, particularly for those who have suffered child abuse.
Based on a true story, A boy, a man and a kite, is a new film centering around child sexual abuse at Carmel College in the UK, which was referred to as the Jewish Eton before it was closed down in 1997. The information available from the Film Collaborative’s page, tells us more:
“A bedridden man, on the edge of death, contemplates the sexual abuse he suffered as a boy and seeks resolution and redemption from his past.
It’s an abstract narrative short film based on true events in the early life of British composer Stephen Endelman who was sexually abused as a young man at Carmel College in the United Kingdom. Known before it closed down in 1997 as the Jewish Eton, Carmel was of the finest boarding schools in England. It held a dark secret, which remained entombed until a British Crown Court case in 2015, when former housemaster Trevor Bolton was convicted on 16 counts of indecent assault, six counts of indecency with a child, and three other sexual offenses, for which he was sent to prison. In the summer of 2016 the verdict was upheld in an appeal.
The film opens and closes with a red kite flying fearlessly and joyfully in the wind. It’s a metaphor for freedom and represents both the protagonist’s present as the kits is battered and buffeted by the wind and his future as it’s allowed to soar upwards.
We use an abstract visual form to tell is very painful story. The film blends two time periods 1979 and the present where we meet our protagonist Daniel and our antagonist Trevor at two different ages. As the piece progresses we see the balance of social power shift in favor of Daniel, who finds a form of salvation in his music and refuses to succumb to the descendancy so common in victims of abuse. However the shame starts to eat at him and he finds himself dying. The film looks at pivotal moments in a man’s life as he approaches death and seeks resolution from an all-consuming shame.
At the heart of the story is the concept of injustice and shame and a hypothesis that in silence there is a benign conspiracy to avoid difficult subjects. In the film we visit moments of love, panic, confusion, ignorance, mental and emotional impotence.”
Also based on real events, Clergy is a Polish film, which has come to the attention of the mainstream media after breaking box office records, and for inspiring hundreds of people to come forward with abuse allegations. The film was released on 28th September, and offers insights into the Polish priesthood.
The film was produced by one of Poland’s best known directors, Wojciech Smarzowski, and its high profile actors are stars of the Polish film industry. The film follows the lives of three priests with dark secrets involving alcohol, women, pedophilia, money and politics. Testimonies of survivors also feature.
The Church in Poland has reacted badly to the film, which welcomed almost a million polish cinema goers in its first weekend, breaking a 30 year old record inside the country. The success of the film in Poland has come as a surprise to some – Poland is one of the most devout Catholic countries in Europe. The film has since made its way across the globe, receiving coverage in The Guardian, The Independent and The Hollywood Reporter. Clergy can now be watched in cinemas around the UK.
The Kids We Lose, is an award winning documentary looking at the way in which children with challenging behaviour are often treated in the US. The documentary premiered at the New Hampshire Film Festival on 11th October, and won the Best Feature Documentary Award.
The documentary’s website offers this information about the short film:
“The Kids We Lose is a 90-minute documentary film (currently in production) about the human side of having a child or student with behavioral challenges, and the struggles faced by parents, educators, staff in facilities, mental health clinicians, and law enforcement professionals in trying to ensure that these kids receive the help they need. The Kids We Lose also exposes the often brutal, inhumane ways in which our kids with social, emotional, and behavioral challenges are treated in schools, inpatient psychiatry units, residential facilities, and prisons.
These are the kids we lose. Their hopelessness, misery, and frustration are palpable. The human toll is hard to fathom. But these are also the most expensive kids in our society. Doing the wrong thing costs a fortune. When we don’t help our most vulnerable kids, we all lose.
And it’s all so very unnecessary.”
For councils, charities and anyone interested, the film is now available for screenings. The team can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many thanks to Professor Joan Durrant and the Global Partnership To End Violence Against Children, for sharing this documentary with us.
The Children Act is a 2017 film which looks at a case in the UK Family Court, dealing with a child who has leukemia and needs a blood transfusion. The boy and his family are Jehova’s Witnesses, and so his parents refuse the blood transfusion on religious grounds. The film features a high profile cast, including Emma Thompson, who plays the judge presiding over the case.
A summary of the film is offered on IMDB:
“Fiona Maye is an eminent High Court judge in London presiding with wisdom and compassion over ethically complex cases of family law. But she has paid a heavy personal price for her workload, and her marriage to American professor Jack is at a breaking point. In this moment of personal crisis, Fiona is asked to rule on the case of Adam, a brilliant boy who is refusing the blood transfusion that will save his life. Adam is three months from his 18th birthday and still legally a child. Should Fiona force him to live? Fiona visits Adam in the hospital and their meeting has a profound emotional impact on them both, stirring strong new emotions in the boy and long-buried feelings in her.”
A former social worker sitting on the judging panel of the social care sector’s biggest awards ceremony, has pulled out after discovering that management company Capita, was sponsoring the event. Capita has been embroiled in several high profile scandals, which include the company’s involvement in creating financial incentives at the Home Office to remove people from the UK (Windrush).
Nick Berbiers announced on Twitter last week that he would not be attending The Social Worker of the Year Awards. It’s not the first time that Nick has raised concerns about sponsors at the annual event. In his statement, Nick describes previous attempts at trying to alert the organisers to unsuitable sponsors. The statement gives the impression that the Board did not take Nick’s concerns seriously, leading the social worker to periodically step down from the judging panel between 2010 and 2016. Nick says in his tweet that he missed the sponsor’s name when he initially got involved in this year’s event, however upon noticing Capita’s presence, decided to step down from the panel.
Social Workers Without Borders, a charity nominated for an award at the ceremony, has also said it won’t attend, after discovering that Capita was sponsoring this year’s event.
The embarrassing fiasco has led to the ceremony’s board of trustees promising to hold an “ethics audit” of the annual event’s sponsors.
Capita has a long record of marks against its name, which spans not only the Windrush scandal, but features a scathing review from the Commons Select Committee over its callous handling of medical assessments for disability benefits, which it managed on behalf of the government. The Committee concluded that 60% of Capita’s reports were unacceptable. A subsidiary company belonging to Capita which employed immigration removal escort staff, was also deemed this year to have used excessive restraint on detainees who were flown out of the UK, by HM Inspectorate of Prisons.
This development comes during a particularly difficult time for the social care sector. Hit by increasingly sharp budget cuts and in freefall as it struggles to cope with an out of date child protection system and rising referrals for support, the sector is constantly looking to find ways to balance its budgets. This has resulted in unlikely, and often unethical partnerships between organisations. An example where these kinds of pairings raise the greatest concerns involve children’s charities like Barnardo’s teaming up with adoption agencies to help bolster their support services.
Agreements which would ordinarily be viewed as deeply unethical, are now the norm inside the sector.
The government will be holding a debate today, looking at ways to fund the social care sector. Members of the public are able to attend the event free of charge, which starts at 3.35pm, and will be held in Committee Room 1, at the Palace of Westminster.
A programme on BBC One airing tonight at 7.30pm, looks at the effect cuts to legal aid have had on access to justice. The Inside Out West series also features an interview with Judge Stephen Wildblood, who sits in the family court at Bristol. The judge talks about the growing number of parents who attend court without legal representation, and his experiences working on care orders.
In a preview for the show, which was posted on Twitter yesterday, Judge Wildblood tells the presenter:
“A mother got on her hands and knees in court and begged me… “please don’t take my children away.” She said she would end her life if I made the orders.”
Wildblood also reflects on the state of the family courts during the interview:
“I don’t think the system is broken, and the judges wouldn’t allow it to be broken. Whether the overall process is fair, that people are coming to court on their own, is not really for me to say. That’s for others to judge”.
The programme can be viewed on BBC One, and will be available to watch online once it has aired.
A Hampshire police presentation discovered by this site, raises concerns about the strategy used by the force when serving child sexual exploitation leaflets to suspected abusers. Tactics include the use of threatening language inside the form, bullying suspects into signing the leaflet, and referring to suspects as perpetrators despite a lack of evidence to bring charges.
The leaflet, called a C5 notice, is being handed out in a bid to deter people from committing child sexual exploitation offences. The notices can be handed out where an investigation into a suspect has taken place but there is not enough evidence to charge them. Hampshire police has served C5 notices on 54 people since the force introduced the scheme in 2016, including a woman who had teenage boys over to her house. It’s not clear from reports whether there was any suspicious activity taking place at the woman’s home.
The original presentation Hampshire Police used to launch the scheme, offers information about how C5 notices should be used, regional details about victim and perpetrator profiles, police disruption tactics, and local CSE case studies. A website launched at the same time to raise awareness around CSE, called Alice’s Diary, compares children who have been affected by sexual abuse, to Alice in Wonderland.
The presentation was given by Chief Inspector Debra Masson in October, 2016 and refers to both proven offenders, and individuals eligible for C5 notices as ‘perpetrators’, a term usually only used for a person who has already been found guilty of a crime. As C5 notices are given to individuals who have not been charged with any offence, the term raises serious questions about the force’s understanding of due process. The slides also refer to suspected victims, just as victims, which gives the impression that all sexual exploitation allegations lodged with the police are already proven.
Equally concerning are the contents of Hampshire police force’s C5 notice, which includes a statement by the police that they will be monitoring the suspect – despite an investigation having already taken place which has not led to any charges – for an indefinite period of time. A form at the bottom of the notice also requires the recipient to sign a statement of understanding, which could be viewed as deeply unethical, given that no charges have been brought. There is also no clause in the C5 informing the suspect that he or she is not under any obligation to sign the notice.
Interestingly, the notice itself does not use the term perpetrator.
The leaflets have generated conflicting views amongst politicians, the police and lawyers. Labour MP Sarah Champion, who is also the co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Preventing Sexual Violence, believes the leaflets will act as a deterrent. Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird thinks the leaflets will have no effect on reducing sexual abuse, and Aine Kervick, a criminal defence lawyer at Kingsley Napley, believes the notice could target innocent people and affect their chances of employment as the C5 could show up in an enhanced DBS check. Hampshire Police denies that the scheme is a cost-cutting measure.
These are all important points, however the most significant issues here are the language used inside the C5 and the less than careful wording within the presentation, all of which are clear breaches of due process, and show a complete lack of respect for the legal rights of those targeted by these forms.
Mayameen Meftahi was abused by her father throughout her childhood, until he was sentenced in 2011.
The evidence at the trial included over 60 hours of video footage – some of which came from CCTV installed inside bedroom lightbulbs – a diary, and drugs. Her father was later charged with several counts of incest, indecent assault on a female, committing gross indecency with a child and making indecent photographs or pseudo photographs, of a child.
Despite being placed on the sex offenders register for life, her father served only six and half years of a ten year sentence, for violence that spanned over a decade. The conditions of his release include details about Mayameen’s local area, but prevented by the law from knowing her father’s whereabouts, she worries constantly about her family’s safety.
Mayameen, who has waived her right to anonymity, is now campaigning to change the laws around sentencing for child sexual abuse. Her first interview, with That’s Life magazine on 27th September, offers details about the abuse she suffered. On the day of the interview, Mayameen published a video on Facebook talking about her life and explaining why she chose to speak out. The video has since received over 13,000 views.
Mayameen spoke with Researching Reform about her childhood, why sentencing for convicted paedophiles needs to change, and her work combatting sexual violence.
Mayameen, thank you for speaking with us. Can you tell us about what happened to you during your childhood?
My childhood consisted of child sexual abuse from the age of 4 up until my teens, and possibly beyond. As I got older, my father used drugs to continue the abuse. When he was arrested in 2011, the police found drugs, along with other evidence, including videos and a handwritten, detailed diary.
As well as sexual abuse, my father engaged in several forms of controlling behaviour. He was always stalking me, and was a very manipulative presence in my life. I was never free from the abuse, my childhood was a nightmare and not a time in my life on which I can look back on and smile.
Did you have a positive experience with the authorities you spoke to about your abuse?
I didn’t speak out about my abuse, my father was arrested whilst I was on holiday and I had no idea what was happening back in the UK. It was only when I received a phone call telling me about what had happened that I found out. I was told, ‘you are safe now, he has been arrested’.
When I returned to the UK, the police were exceptional. It was a monumental case with the evidence stacked high, and I was well supported by the police until my father was sentenced.
What happened to your abuser?
My father was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
How do you feel about your father’s prison term and the decision to let him out early?
I think his prison term at the time was too lenient. I know the judge’s hands were tied due to sentencing laws, he did make that very clear. My father served 6 years and was not eligible for either of his paroles in 2016 and 2017. I will never be free from the abuse and so the time he has served in prison, is unjust. He is a prolific sex offender.
Why did you decide to waive your anonymity for That’s Life Magazine?
When my father was being released, I realised then that I would never be free from his sentence, and that’s why I waived my anonymity. I felt strongly that justice hadn’t prevailed. Shortly before his release, I had an instinct to Google his name and I was absolutely flawed to find an article online that publicly named him giving evidence as a trained ‘listener’ for the Samaritans. Given the work that I now do, I made the decision to speak out.
You started the She Can Consultancy to help women exposed to violence – can you tell us about the organisation?
I founded She Can Consultancy as an independent specialised consultancy agency for sexual violence and psychological trauma. As a consultant, I provide expert advice and assistance for professionals, authorities and organisations working with victims. I also provide professional training currently in Female Genital Mutilation, Trauma Informed practices, and I will be looking at providing Sexual Abuse Training also.
Alongside the professional work, I also wrote a 7 week PTSD and Anxiety Recovery Program, which I offer to women via self-referral or as an outreach program for organisations. This has been very successful and provides full understanding of PTSD as well as teaching a number of coping mechanisms to improve survivors’ quality of life after trauma.
What do you hope to achieve with She Can?
I have launched the #IfSheCanICan campaign to provide a national platform for survivors to speak out safely, to raise the voices of survivors and to pave the way for systematic law changes and better victim protection. I’m also working on the Child House campaign for Wales, and we’ve just launched a petition asking for Child Houses to be built in Wales, for victims of child sexual abuse.
How do you feel about the current sentencing guidelines for child sex abuse offences?
The current sentencing guidelines are an insult to survivors who live with the life sentence of abuse. The Judge in my case also felt extremely frustrated that he could not impose a longer sentence. When a victim hears a prison sentence of 10 years, they only process that term, they’re not made aware of the the days deducted due to time on remand, nor do they know that their abuser could end up serving only half their sentence.
The system as it currently stands provides victims with a false sense of hope, for example in my case, that I could expect 10 years of safety, and an opportunity to try and re-build our lives, when in fact ten years often translates to five years, eight years to four, and so on.
It’s a huge injustice, sex offenders should serve their full sentence. It was clear from my case that my father is a danger to the public, his refusal of parole on 2 occasions highlights that, I think. And yet less than 12 months after being refused parole, he was released, because of the law.
What changes would you like to see for victims of child sexual abuse?
I am campaigning for a right in law to allow victims of abuse to be given details, confidentially, of the location of their abusers. I would like to know the location of my father upon his release to minimise my risk. I want to know where his vicinity is, so I can avoid the area as much as possible, in order to protect myself and my family. My father is aware of the vicinity I am living in due to his licencing conditions, and yet as a victim, I am not given that same right.
I also want to see a change in sentence guidelines that offers better protection to victims of child sexual abuse.
Many of our readers have been abused as children themselves – what would you like to say to them?
Your voice is powerful, being a survivor is a part of your identity and something to be proud of, and your voice deserves to be heard. You are not alone. I would also encourage survivors to speak out, but to do so safely. I broke my anonymity with my interview in That’s Life Magazine and this put me in the media, which can be a very vulnerable time as you re-live your trauma, but you also enter a new transition. If anyone is feeling burdened by silence, then reach out. I Believe You, I Validate You, You are Powerful.
A judge sitting at Sheffield Crown Court has likened Barnsley social services to Hitler’s paramilitary organisation, the Schutzstaffel, or SS, after a young girl who had expressed what were believed to be suicidal thoughts, was forced to have a naked medical examination. The social workers also failed to get her father’s consent for the medical, and several other related courses of action.
The council’s conduct left Judge Robert Moore fuming last Friday, after social workers wrongly accused the girl’s family of child sexual abuse, leading to the vulnerable six year old having to undergo humiliating and invasive procedures, which included the collection of swabs and having to stand for extended periods of time in uncomfortable positions. She was also temporarily prevented from seeing her grandfather. Judge Moore summed up his thoughts on the girl’s treatment, at the hearing:
“Social services were like the SS of Nazi Germany. They’re literally the SS in their name, and their manner of working is somewhat draconian.”
The girl’s mother, who was suffering from postnatal depression, had committed suicide ten weeks after giving birth. The girl told her nursery teachers that she wanted to ‘be with her mummy’, however the school did not make her father aware of the comment for several weeks.
The girl’s father was in court to appeal a conviction following a trial in March of this year, which found him guilty of harassing a Barnsley school’s headteacher. The father had been angry at the school for failing to tell him about his daughter’s comments in a timely fashion. Social Services then became involved on an unrelated child abuse allegation against the father, which led to the child protection investigation, even though the police had told social services that the allegation against the father was unfounded.
After the hearing, the father spoke to the Barnsley Chronicle about his experience:
“Despite previous investigations finding no evidence of any risk of sexual abuse, I was forced to allow Barnsley social services to take my daughter out of school and transport her to Barnsley Hospital where, without my consent, she was stripped naked and examined from head to foot…
The only abuse has been by Barnsley social services. My daughter told teachers she wanted to kill herself to see her mummy. What else was I meant to do other than try to get answers?
I was not made aware of her comment, which was disregarded as a flippant remark, for 20-odd days. We’re talking about a little girl here, my little girl, who I thought could have been wrongly taken away from me.”
The acronym “SS” for social workers, has been widely used by parents across the UK for several years, and is intended to draw parallels between social services here, with the now extinct military arm of Hitler’s Nazi party. The comparison has come about due to the often aggressive and callous treatment parents and children experience within social service departments around the country.
In a high profile judgment in 2013, the then President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, made an official statement on the use of the term:
“J was born at home on 4 April 2013, the local authority says against medical advice. The father announced J’s birth on Facebook. It included these words: “SS banging on the door we’re not answering” and “ss gone to get epo”. I very much doubt that ‘SS’ was here being used as an innocent acronym for the local authority’s social services. The internet is awash with strident criticism of local authorities, described as “the SS” or “SS”, where it is quite clear from the context that the reader is meant to link the activities of the local authorities being criticised with those of Hitler’s infamous SS. The comparison is grotesque and is, and I have little doubt is intended to be, offensive and insulting – grossly so. I make no such finding against the father in relation to this particular publication but I am willing to proceed on the assumption, though without finding, that the father’s intent was indeed to encourage readers to make the comparison.”
The nickname is now being embraced by members of the judiciary.
Many thanks to Ian Josephs for alerting us to this case.
The latest child welfare news that should be right on your radar:
- Convicted Paedophiles: Ireland to become first in Europe to cancel the passports of paedophiles
- Mandatory Reporting Of Child Abuse: Teachers, nurses and priests could be jailed over Tasmania’s new child abuse disclosure laws
- Child Abuse: Scottish Inquiry says orphanages were places of ‘threat and abuse’
The first ever national study of newborns in England has revealed that the number of babies taken into care who are less than one week old, has more than doubled in a decade. In most instances, babies would have been taken from their mothers while still in hospital.
The research, which was carried out by Professor Karen Broadhurst, on behalf of the Nuffield Foundation, and which used data supplied by CAFCASS, found that care proceedings were issued for 1,039 newborns in 2007/8, (32% of all cases involving an infant age under 1 year). However, this number had more than doubled at 2,447 newborns (42% of all infant cases), by 2017.
The study also reveals marked differences in relation to the rates of babies being taking into care across regions in England. These variations have become a common feature of children’s social work practice across the country.
Despite the differences across regions, the study noticed an overall increase in the number of babies taken into care, nationwide.
The researchers now want to look at possible causes for removal and geographical fluctuations, who suspect that deprivation may be an underlying cause. This premise however, is not right. Families who experience poverty tend to ask their local councils for help, which is a strong indication that they are not only aware of the issues they face but understand that their children’s needs are not being met, and crucially, want to actively address those gaps. By contrast, vulnerable families are those who are suffering with any number of difficulties and are unable to identify and put their children’s needs first. Those families represent a very small percentage of the population, and so the astounding figures in this report are clearly disproportionate to the number of mothers and fathers who genuinely can’t look after their children. This also suggests that the large number of removals are not based on a lack of capacity to parent, but the system’s now widely documented flaws.
Those flaws include an ingrained culture which treats families asking for help like second class citizens, a system geared towards removal to fuel the adoption and fostering sectors, two of only a small number of initiatives inside the child protection sector still offering lucrative profit margins, and knee jerk reactions to budget cuts leading to councils going for the cheapest option every time, which usually translates into councils removing children from parents rather than offering support which could avoid tearing families apart in the first place. Poverty then, is not a root cause of child neglect and abuse, but a convenient gateway through which cash strapped councils can fund themselves.
The report has also reignited the debate on the family justice system’s use of the ‘risk of significant harm’ threshold, which judges and social workers currently use to decide whether or not to remove children from parents. The threshold has no established working definition, medical guidelines or official legal definition, instead allowing child protection professionals and judges to work from a rough checklist, using their own discretion, which some argue is far too wide for such a serious measure.
Some key stats and facts from the report:
- Of those children less than one-year-old subject to care proceedings, 42% of cases concerned newborns. (2016/2017)
- Almost every case identified by local authorities led to a care order being issued by a judge with most children being put up for adoption, foster care or extended family. Only 14% of children stayed with their birth parents
- 47% of mothers had already had older children taken into care
The Nuffield Foundation will be working on a new project through their Family Justice Observatory, called ‘Infants in the family justice system’, which will be launched in 2019.
A discussion promised by the Backbench Business Committee, on children’s social care, was cancelled last night after the House of Commons ran out of time to hold the debate. Thousands of families had expressed an interest in the session after this site shared details of the event at the end of last week. Several parents also intended to travel from across the country to attend.
The debate was scheduled to take place yesterday evening, however a spate of last minute emergency questions around the death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, the teenager who died after eating a Pret A Manger sandwich, and the disposal of human waste at NHS hospitals left little time for the debate on children’s social care, which was the last debate on the agenda. The one other Backbench Business Committee debate, which looked at Baby Loss Awareness Week, was allowed to run for more than two hours. The debate on children’s social care was set to take place after it.
The debate, headed up by the motion, “That this House has considered children’s social care in England”, was to be opened by Tim Loughton MP. Researching Reform reached out to Tim last night to find out why the debate had been overlooked. Tim told us that the Chamber had run out of time to host the discussion, but that it would be given priority once new slots for backbench debates became available:
Child welfare has become one of the most important political issues of our time, with the media regularly leading their coverage with stories about children’s rights and child wellbeing. The House of Commons’ failure to alert the public to the change in the agenda was clearly not in step with the growing demand for information about how the government treats children within a wide range of contexts, including social care.
With so many members of the public, child welfare professionals, parents and children interested in making a difference in this area, the government needs to respond effectively and make sure that it encourages participation in politics. It can start by keeping the public properly informed about its debates.
We’ll let you know as soon as more information about the debate is released.