Children’s Hearings in Scotland

BBC Newsnight on 3/8/2018 drew attention to concerns that the Child Protection Service in Norway is taking too many children into care.

The same concerns are found in Scotland.  The British media has publicised ‘separation anxiety’ experienced by children being separated from their parents at the American-Mexico border. The same British media is behind the curve in discussing the separation of children from their parents in the UK.

In short, social workers produce reports that Children’s Hearing Panels do not and cannot challenge, because they are not trained to challenge them and they have no evidence with which to contradict social workers’ reports.  These ‘reports’ are actually judgments by those who are not trained to be judges, with devastating effects upon the families that they destroy.  Their inability to produce balanced reports can be demonstrated in various ways, not least by their refusal to interview all parties involved whenever they document one of the many complaints they are adept at recording.

The forms given to social workers to fill in are biassed in favour of reporting negative events so that Children’s Hearing Panels read biassed reports full of complaints against the parent that the social worker has decided to focus on.

Such a nay-saying job must be depressing and stressful to conscientious social workers, so it is in everyone’s interests to improve the service.

The best way to improve it is to put resources into helping struggling parents instead of taking children away from them and paying through the nose for others to look after these children.

There is a petition before the Public Petitions Committee of the Scottish Parliament on the Operation and running of child protection services in Scotland.  It began in November 2017 and the statistics supplied to the Committee are alarming, both in terms of the shocking outcomes of children in care in Scotland and the amount of money being wasted in care that would be better spent on supporting parents.

  1. On statistics: these outcomes are not easily discovered, and Kezia Dugdale, MSP, former leader of the Scottish Labour Party, said that the lack of information recorded about young people in care “should make all of us angry”, describing the figures she had managed to obtain as “startling and deeply worrying”.  She was speaking at the launch of a report Falling Through the Cracks, highlighting that at least 84 young people died in the last 10 years, who had been in secure care at some stage.  The statistics in the above Petition claims that 20% of children who have been in care in Scotland will not see their 25th birthday, and that 25% of children who have been in care have police records by the age of 25.  Submissions are available on the Scottish Parliament website.
  2. On money: a similar concern was highlighted on HARDtalk only a few days ago on 2 Aug 2018 about Ireland’s forced adoptions showing that money is integral to the adoption business.  Paul Redmond claimed that Roman Catholic nuns in Ireland had been trading in adoptions, being paid to send children to the United States for adoption often against the mother’s wishes and sometimes without her knowledge.
  3. In England, the share price of some of the private adoption agencies continues to rise at a surprising rate.

Baroness Hale, the President of the UK Supreme Court, said recently that a legal case about family freedom brought by the Christian Institute is a ‘most important’ case.  The unanimous verdict of the UK Supreme Court in 2016 prevented the Scottish SNP Government from implementing its Named Person scheme, that gives more rights to a state-appointed Named Person than a child’s own parents.  This goes beyond the nanny state and it is a piece of communist ideology promoted by secularists who think that the state owns the nation’s children.

It is time for Christian common sense to be brought to bear upon the Children’s Hearing system in Scotland.

Update:

Experts in Child Law in England consider secrecy in England has been taken too far and should not be protected from public scrutiny.

16 May 2018: I drew attention to the need for grandparents to be involved who are being denied family rights on The Kaye Adams’ Programme on BBC Radio Scotland. It is interesting that whereas there is a summary of the programmes before and after this one, there is no subject matter summary about this episode on the BBC website.

15 Feb 2019: BBC news reported a successful Appeal to the Supreme Court by a mother against her child being taken into care. The BBC said that a record number of children are in care in England and Wales and that “often the reasons for putting children in care is shrouded in secrecy”. In this case the Court of Appeal called it “the slimmest of evidence”. The mother was scathing of the system and said that they are “a law unto themselves” and that one cannot challenge them because they are shrouded in secrecy. The solution is to open up the family courts. The report is not available on the BBC website.

8 Jun 2019: I gave my recommendations today to the Chair of the Independent Care Review. I recommended 1. in an emergency situation, instead of removing the child from the family home, to put a suitably trained supernanny into the home to assess the situation and neutralise the risk; 2. spread the risk from a social worker fearful of losing their job if something goes wrong on their watch to involve the family, grandparents in particular, and restore the balance of family rights according to the European Convention of Human Rights Article 8; 3. review Children’s Hearing Panels’ training to restore these meetings to ‘informal round-table discussions’ instead of the legal battlefield that they are at present; 4. before a child can be removed from the family home, there must be adequate advocacy for all concerned in a multi-disciplinary consensus and 5. a list of other recommendations including my submission to a Public Petition being considered by the Public Petitions Committee at the Scottish Parliament.

“these are meant to be informal round-table discussions with only the people present who can make a meaningful contribution to the debate.”

UK Supreme Court [2010] UKSC 56 para 45

18 Jun 2019: a Government Commissioned Review about children separated from their jailed mothers has just published its report.

Harriet Harman MP, Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, said on the BBC news today that it is a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) because the child has a right to family life.

The application of the ECHR is under review in two areas: 1. the children of female prisoner as above and 2. under immigration policy.

It is time that it was reviewed in the Child Welfare system in Scotland where children are removed by Children’s Hearing Panels from mothers who are not criminals. These Panels were originally set up to take criminal offenders out of the adult criminal system, but the majority of cases are now no longer criminal and involve greater medical skills involving mental health than social workers are able to provide. The recently announced decision to train school teachers to recognise mental health issues is long overdue in the Children’s Hearing system relying upon reports from social workers poorly-trained in mental health, learning difficulties and deaf awareness and other disabilities.

I wrote today to David Gauke, MP, the Secretary of State for Justice, that the European Convention on Human Rights to family life is being routinely ignored in Scotland. I have previously mentioned the same to various Sheriffs and to the Sheriff Principal of Grampian, Highland and Islands. The subject needs more public discussion and I await the outcome.

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