The #Rotherham #UKIP fostering row: Further details emerge

Another day, another set of details emerge about the UKIP fostering row. This time courtesy of the Daily Mail. I’ve said before that I’m not comfortable with the way a sensitive case about vulnerable children is being played out and discussed in the media, but since other people are clearly going to comment on the case, I suspect throwing a tuppence forth from this little blog isn’t going to make much difference in the grand scheme of things.

Last week the Guardian alluded to tensions between Rotherham Council and elements of the local East European community, and yesterday’s Daily Mail fills in some of the blanks regarding this. Apparently the council has been the subject of protests from Slovakian families following a number of removals of children into foster care. These families are accusing the council of “child-stealing” for racist reasons and of trying to impose British values on them. This has led to protests from the Slovakian government who appear to be taking the side of the families.

Though the “British values” in question appear to be things like children going to school, not wandering the streets at 2am, and not living in a mice infestation.

The Mail being the Mail, they don’t appear to see any irony at all in, a couple of weeks after accusing the council of ideologically-driven fixations with multiculturalism, then granting a fairly uncritical interview with an alleged abuser, strongly suggesting that the council are racist towards East Europeans.

The words “shot at from both sides” spring to mind.

And naturally, there’s a rentaquote from John Hemming, an MP who seems to live in a strange parallel world where child protection proceedings are nearly always due to scheming, malicious social workers and hardly ever about averting another Victoria Climbie or Baby Peter.

These arguments appear to have been made in the courts as well as in the media and council meetings, apparently with some success. As the Guardian said,

But a family court judge ruled three of the children should be returned to the parents after the birth parents successfully argued that the council had failed in their duty to ensure the children enjoyed the linguistic right to learn and speak the language of their birth.

In the light of the Guardian and Daily Mail reports, I’m going to make a rough educated guess at the backstory here, which may or may not have to amended as further details emerge into the public domain.

It seems likely that the council would have been anxious to avoid a repeat of this judicial ruling. It also seems likely that they may have been vigilant for anything that would be immediately be pounced upon by the birth family’s lawyers, by the Slovak protesters, possibly even by the Slovakian government and media.

Something like the foster carers being members of UKIP. They may well have been doing a perfectly good job as carers, but that wouldn’t be what the family’s lawyers would say in court.

One could argue that the local authority should have challenged the judicial rulings, ignored the Slovak government and media, and served up the local Slovak community a hefty slice of if-you-don’t-like-our-rules-you-don’t-have-to-come-here. I’ll leave others to argue that one out.

But either way, the application of Occam’s Razor doesn’t require the council to be acting out of an ideological crusade about multiculturalism, or a Labour-inspired grudge against UKIP, in order to have acted in this way.

It certainly doesn’t require any David Icke-style conspiracy theories about Common Purpose.

Such a scenario is entirely consistent with the local authority trying to tiptoe around one set of legal, social and political grenades, and in doing so accidentally setting off a completely different grenade. And that’s my guess as to what’s happened. Eventually time will tell whether I’m right or wrong.

One thing this case does show is how complex and difficult fostering cases can be. When such cases are seized upon for political reasons, whether by UKIP or the Slovakian government, such complexities and difficulties are rarely grasped.

3 thoughts on “The #Rotherham #UKIP fostering row: Further details emerge

  1. The notion of ‘professional judgement’ is misapplied in social work, which lacks a significant evidence base as to its effectiveness. unlike the medical sciences, it is also subject to political sway. What actually happens is personal judgement of individual social services staff is taken as ‘professional judgement. This is supported by use of vague terms as common now in this arena i.e. ‘best interests’ and likelihood of ’emotional harm’ without evidence that psychological damage has actually occurred. Families too are damned if they do and damned if they don’t by this system.

    Whether this can seep deep into the pysche of the judges and courts, dealing with families whether of children or adults in need, remains to be seen.


  2. If it was nothing to do with UKIP, why didn’t the authority just say so? No doubt all cases are complex, as they offered by way of defence, but why not simply say “no it was not to do with UKIP. It was to do with other reasons, much more complex, which we aren’t going to go into at this point”? Otherwise they leave people thinking that this is another example of those reliant on the state for their jobs trying at every possible moment to ensure that the wrong party doesn’t get elected. Or an example of the sort of ideological intolerance that calls itself “liberal” without a trace of irony …

  3. Child Protection Social Work is assaulted about equally by the right and the left, and when I did my training, 1987 to 1989, the assault came mainly from the left. I personally am of a view that social workers should not be the primary agency of child protection for two reasons; we are not really a profession – we do not have a body of knowledge, which allows us to make any authoritative judgements about risks to children; secondly, even if we did our authority is not considered to be legitimate by any part of the public, in particular the right and the left.It is for that reason that no goverment has granted social work any powers at all. A social worker has the power to knock on your door. You do not have to answer it, and if you let them in you can ask them to leave at any time, and many people do.Anything else a social worker has to do is by means of a court order, and despite what Mr Hemmings, birth parents or the Slovak goverment think, a Social Worker has to present overwhelming evidence of immediate risk to obtain an EPO or an interim care order.

    I have looked at the statistics quoted in the two articles, and fortunately for me the National Census has published a lot of data on this subject, bless their cotton socks!

    There are twelve million children in this country, and if the parents of these children had a standard distribution of parental ability, a statistician would expect that 2.5% would be living with parents who were grossly abusive or incompetent, that is so far from the average level of parenting ability as to trigger concern in any culture, in any country at any time. That is if parenting ability is distributed normally, but I would suggest that there are good reasons to think that parenting ability is asymetrically distributed, with a few more people at the truly incompetent end and rather less at the good, as this is true of a whole range of other human characteristics. If we can accept the standard distribution model, then at any one time there are 300,000 children living with grossly incompetent parents.

    There are currently 70,000 children in care. This is roughly the same figure as when the Children Act was ennacted, (in terms of child protection and the courts 1991/1992). It is approximately 20,000 higher than at its lowest point in 2007, and the increase has been in response to the concerns raised by the Baby P case. It is unlikely that this increase has been an unreasonable response, as only last year this goverment reviewed whether children were in care unreasonably, and concluded that LAs and more importantly the courts were simply applying their ‘thresholds’ more rigorously and not lowering them to include children who would not be previously be considered to be in danger.

    It is important to remember that the figure of 70,000 is not simply children removed against the wishes of their parents by means of a court order. It also includes those in residential school, with parental consent, those accommodated voluntarily, those (mainly from overseas), simply abandoned, and therefore the responsibility of the LA within which they are found. It also includes those remanded by the courts for criminal activity, or in secure units and special medical care because they are a danger to themselves or others.Any disabled child, with respite care say one weekend out of every four, also is deemed to be in care, and has a care plan and reviews. In other words only just over half a % of all children are in care. Mr Hemmings, who is right up there with Ed Balls, is demanding to know why 500 children are ‘taken’ into care each week. I suspect his figure will include all of the above, but even if it does not, it would take 10 years of taking 26,000 children into care to remove all of the children who are at very high levels of risk in the community.

    No goverment will ever do this, in part because it would increase the costs of care by over 300%, but also because there is no professional, political or idealogical will to do this. The one group of professionals who would of course be overjoyed by an increase in the number of court proceedings would be the private law solicitors, who seem to be making such a handsome profit in this and other cases.There is also no human resources capable of meeting this demand. As a worker who experienced the cruelty in home’s for adults run by the state in the 1970,s, and who is fully aware of the sadistic physical cruelty that took place in many children’s homes I do not believe that there are 230,000 safe places out there for the children at high level risk, but not yet in care.

    Now in relation to the Roma speaking Slovak population 150 children seem to have been removed, allegedly to be adopted by British adopters. I am not clear what the time frame is for the figure of 150, but will assume it is for a period of twelve months. I am also not clear how Romanis from Slovakia have been demarcated from other Roma populations, or whether this is not in fact a figure for Romanis, but for Slovakian children, whether or not they are Romani. I also do not know how children from parents with a British and a Slovakian parent would be counted. Firstly in relation to the number of children in care the figure of 150 is tiny, 0.2% in fact. Even if all of these children were to end up being adopted, it would mean that 4% of all the adoptions last year would have been the adoption of Romani-Slovak children. This I suggest is where the racism case falls apart. Indeed it is arguable that the Adoption and Children Act was never likely to achieve the intention of inceasing the number of adoptions and reducing the number of children in care, as it is undermined at almost every turn by the Human Rights Act, which has legal precedance over it.

    Mr Hemmings asks why this family, if they are so bad cannot be deported. Well the answer is simply that this Slovakian goverment, which is so concerned about the rights of Romanis in this country, is rather less concerned about their rights in Slovakia, where they are subjected to extreme violence and harassment by the police and authorities. This could be why they are in Rotherham. Any attempt to deport them would trigger immigration proceedings and the use of the Human Rights Act. You will pleased to know that the cost of deportation proceedings is far greater than family Court Proceedings, and even more rewarding to my good friends the private law solicitors. If one of these children is the child of a British parent, the deportation proceedings would founder on this fact alone.

    I will do another response looking at idealogy in social work and how it may have contributed to this messy situation. For now I will point out how paradoxical it is for the left, that a migration very much prommoted by the last Labour goverment, has landed LAs, some of them left-wing, with an attack of racism by a foreign goverment, supported by the same immigrants that they welcomed so readily.

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