Council apologises for wrongfully taking a child into care
August 1, 2017 2 comments
Gloucestershire County Council has apologised following the wrongful removal of a baby from its parents.
The case concerned a one year-old toddler who was taken from the care of the mother “wrongly and without prior notice”, on June 1 this year. The removal was in breach of a previously agreed care order specifying that if the child was removed from the mother’s care it should be placed in the care of its father.
The baby’s gender was not specified in the ruling.
Sitting in the In the Family Court at Gloucester, Judge Wildblood QC explained that the removal had taken place after the child was taken to see the father at a contact centre. The mother was summoned to the council offices and told, in the presence of a police officer, that her baby would be placed with a foster family with immediate effect. The social workers involved had not taken any legal advice the Judge added, despite some holding doubts about the lawfulness of removing the baby.
Nor had they apparently considered any alternative arrangements that might have allowed the baby to remain with a member of the family – in spite of the fact that, in addition to the father, one of his sisters had also been approved as a potential carer.
Eventually the baby was returned to the mother after six weeks. She had made an application to the courts for its return on her own, without any entitlement to legal aid.
Judge Wildblood condemned the Council’s “subterfuge and immediacy”, saying it had been “plainly wrong”. He quoted the mother’s therapist who described the impact the forcible removal had had on both the ”emotionally fragile and socially vulnerable woman” and the baby.
“…the event was highly traumatic for them both so we have had to use the sessions to help the mother deal with this new and, in my opinion, unnecessary and highly distressing event which has created yet another trauma to add to all the traumatic experiences she has had since childhood and adolescence. The mother has been grief-stricken since 1st June…”
Judge Wildblood noted the fact that Council had not even given the parents the legally required 14 days’ notice. breaching their rights to respect for family life, under Article 8 of the European Court of Human Rights.
“In my opinion it is clear that the local authority acted in a way that was contrary to case law.”
Although the Council had some concerns about the mother’s parenting abilities they were not serious enough to justify forcibly taking the child into care, he continued.
“None of the mechanisms that should have kicked in against wrongful removal did so.”
There were multiple failures he declared: a lack of oversight by senior management, along with poor record-keeping and flawed procedures.
His criticisms were echoed by the baby’s legal guardian, who described herself as “deeply saddened” by the removal. She is now expected to file a claim for damages against the Council on behalf of the family.
Gloucestershire County Council issued a formal apology for the incident, saying it accepted that:
“…in our attempts to safeguard the welfare of this child, members of our children’s social care team breached the terms of a previous court order.”
The local authority continued:
“We also apologise to the child and the parents for our actions in this case and for any distress caused. This should never have happened and we have updated our policies and put in place safeguards.”
The mother, meanwhile, said in a statement:
“While the local authority has accepted its failings, I hope that no other family suffers in the way my family has.”
An independent review of the case is now expected.
Read the ruling here.
Photo of Gloucester docks by Saffron Blaze, via Wikipedia under a Creative Commons licence
August 1, 2017
Categories: Children in care