A significant minority of mothers live daily lives, separated from their children and I am one of them. I have become very aware that my story although a nightmare is not unique...

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Compare and contrast the roles of an IRO and the Queen, transparency makes everything clearer

 Admittedly not the snappiest of titles, but bear with me. Being the Queen comes with a few perks, a couple of palaces, free flowers and of course always a freshly decorated loo whether she officially visits, just in case. I can't imagine for a minute that an IRO have any of these perks of the job.
The Queen is our head of state, but she actually has no powers and is independent of the Government. By way of contrast, the role of the IRO , comes with real power, they can override a local authority in it's decision making and even refer a child's case back to court. So actually in theory they are not just a figurehead, but in practice they sometimes are. Maybe it something to do with the lack of perks , but actually it is more likely that because they are paid by local authorities they are supposed to hold to account, pressure is applied to see that they don't. So actually in day to day work life,at least from my perspective, they can end up as powerless as the Queen.                                                                                                     Transparency comes in because I have at the tail end of last year completed yet another complaint  process with my local authority.  The two are related, in that complaints are not subject to reporting restrictions like family court hearings and the complaint relates to the action, or rather non action, of an IRO.

The complaint:

 I have copied the stage 2 submission, it was not upheld at stage 1, it has been redacted to leave out my name and my child's , though I am not sure it is a legal requirement. I have also redacted local authority workers as I personally do not agree with naming them, though many parents would choose to do so. At the meeting with the independent person and the investigating officer  the conversation was recorded at my insistence.

                                                      Stage 2 submission by complainant
Background:

1. The original complaint as submitted
"I wish to make the following complaint about Childrens Services:


Childrens Services have failed to put in an application discharge  X's Care Order as agreed at her LAC review on the 26th August 2015, where the recommendation was that the application should be made by the end of November 2015. The application was not made until the 9th March 2017, despite it being an outstanding recommendation at subsequent LAC reviews. In that time, contact has been problematic, I have not received School reports , I have been excluded from LAC reviews and I have only met her social worker once
The delay has resulted in an article 8 breach of the 1989 Human Rights Act for both X and myself.

Remedy sought.

I require a written apology.
I require separate amounts of compensation reflecting the severity of  the breach of Human Rights for both  X and myself. 

Thank you"

2. The Local Authority initially refused to allow me to go through the complaints procedure, after contacting the Chief Executive , this decision was over turned. 
 P1

3. The  complaint at stage one was not fully addressed as the investigating officer went off at a tangent rather than target what I had complained about. I did point this out at the time of our meeting.P2-P3


4. At the LAC Review on the 20/08/15  the child's  plan was to discharge the care order, by November 2015, nobody consulted disagreed with the plan P4

5. At the  LAC Review  on 11/02/16 the child's plan was to discharge the care order and no one disagreed  with the plan .It was also noted that the recommendation to discharge was "now well overdue being actioned" , " The application should be prepared for court by the second week in March 2016" P5-P6

6.  At the LAC Review of 08/07/16 the Local Authority disagreed with the plan to discharge the care order. The Local Authority did therefore not disagree with the discharge of the care order , until the LAC Review of 08/07/16, they simply  failed to make to make an application as agreed before that date.   The only significant event in between LAC reviews was me handing a letter to the social worker outlining that a Clinical Psychologist had found that I had no mental health issues , but was a victim of chronic abuse, the abuser of course being  X's father whom she still lived with under a care order. P7

7. The Review of Childrens Cases Regulations  1991 state " Arrangements for implementation of decisions arising out of reviews
8.  The responsible authority shall make arrangements themselves or with other persons to implement any decision which the authority propose to make in the course, or as a result, of the review of a child’s case." P8
 It is amended by The Review of Children’s Cases (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2004 P9

4) After regulation 8 insert—
“Independent reviewing officer to be notified of failure to implement etc.
8A.  The responsible authority must inform the independent reviewing officer of—
(a)any significant failure to make arrangements in accordance with regulation 8; or
(b)any significant change of circumstances occurring after the review that affects those arrangements.”.
 The Local Authority unlawfully ignored these regulations, resulting in human rights breaches.

8. Article 8 Human Rights Act 1998
Right to respect for private and family life

1 Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
2 There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

 Failing to discharge the care order at the time it was recommended, caused drift .  Both X and myself have had  interference by the local authority in our private and family lives. The remedy for Human Rights damages includes monetary compensation.
I have asked for £16,000 for X and £16,000 for myself. I have also offered to go into ADR with the Local Authority on 09/08/17 but this offer was declined.



8. I received a letter of apology from the LAC Team Manager , which only addresses part of the complaint. P10

Remedy required:

1. I wish the stage 2 investigation to solely focus on my original complaint and the remedy I requested. I am not interested in why the order was not discharged or lessons learned. I simply require my original complaint to be answered.

For me the above the equivalent of a skeleton argument or a position statement submitted to the court. I remember reading many moons ago that , alongside the release of judgements into the public domain, such documents would also be made available. Sadly very few are, the last I can think of is the "Muslim foster carer case" The argument against is jigsaw identification, from my stage 2 complaint you may have guessed I am more than a little fed up by this stage, but I really don't think you could either identify myself or my daughter through the information given.

The Stage 2 report
This would be the equivalent of a judgement, however unlike most judgements that are never published , I am free to publish this with no restrictions, I found out several years ago that complaints are publishable, this however is the first time I have set out one in full.  Four years ago the President of the Family Division, published guidance , to make the family court more transparent. To be blunt, nothing much has happened.  I am not writing this out of spite, for either the local authority or the IRO , the latter personally, has treated me with courtesy.  By publishing , I add to informed public debate something, I have not been able to do through court proceedings.  It tips the scales of power ,which are very much weighted towards the local authority ever so slightly towards parents. It has been a considered decision to publish, the post has been in draft for some weeks. Rather to illustrate what a fair system looks like. I feel it is important to provide both the investigation of the complaint and the outcome.









From putting both together, you can get the gist of what has happened from both sides, rather than a judgement which is normally just one persons, the judge's (albeit informed, to a greater or lesser extent ) opinion.  You may have noted that the local authority refused to let me use the complaints procedure in the first instance. I have not had contact with my daughter for some time; this stopped after I had an emergency operation and missed a contact. I do not know to this day what she was told.  Without much study,I know the chronology is incomplete as was the investigation into the complaint. The IRO has failed to hold the Local Authority to account in a timely manner , the dispute process is supposed to take 22 days to complete not 10 months.  Both my child and I have breaches of human rights which he ought to have highlighted. 
I have recently found out two more factors that need to be taken into account. My daughter was assaulted in the family home , during this time and I was not informed. This could have triggered a serious case review, instead she remains there at risk. Also the Chair of the Local Safeguarding Board, where the IRO is based is a former senior police officer , whom I made a complaint about as she refused to prosecute my ex husband or listen to my children despite there being a history of violence and witnesses.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Many parents would say that judgements bear very little relation to reality at all, because the evidence that the judge considered was incorrect /falsified and defamatory.  There is also lack of disclosure in family cases ,as much as there is in criminal cases. I think it is essential to stop the clamour about courts being unfair that all judgements are skeleton arguments/position statements are made available. There is of course the problem of jigsaw identification, however this could be  mainly overcome if children were not named in court or dates of birth routinely given. As in my experience ,most documents are submitted to courts electronically now, and provided they were redacted  before submission, eg child 1, child 2 etc, and searched for identifying details before publication, it should not be difficult to publish these with judgements.

From Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division:
to which I  add such drastic decisions made against parents with such very little power must be open to scrutiny. Not just with adoption ,but with all family cases where a parent ceases to be involved in the child's life in any meaningful way, it is a gross invasion into a persons, whether child or adult,  private life.  With the present system decisions are not open to examination , with the transparency I have demonstrated in this post they would be . It would not stop accusations against the family court , but it may , just may slow them down from a flood to a trickle. I am confident it would result in fewer true miscarriages of justice, as those involved in each case would know that they could be held to account in a more meaningful manner.



In this case the IRO was about as powerless as the Queen, despite legally being able to hold the local authority to account.  I wonder whether he would have been more inclined to use his power had he known his actions would be completely transparent? Or did internal pressures keep him from exercising his powers?

PS.
I was not expecting to get £ 16,000 , but a Human Rights claim such as this is normally worth  some thousands. The only reason I got an apology, I believe is that I insisted that the meetings with the investigating officers at stage 1 and 2 were recorded thanks to the Transparency Project . Previous complaints , not recorded have not been upheld. I am also not a legal genius;I found the relevant law thanks  to this post by Suesspiciousminds.



















Tuesday, 30 January 2018

But for the grace of God



I and obviously others watched a remarkable programme last night, about @TreviHouse who offer mother and baby placements for mums willing to come off drugs and in some cases alcohol in order to keep their children. Trevi House is the only facility in the country offering this service. A placement costs £38,000 for six months, far less than long term foster care.
Addicts are looked down on as the lowest of the low, which makes it difficult for them to access support. What emerged from the programme , and it  is something I have known for some time , is that addiction is a family disease that is generational and  is often related to trauma. Rather than scorn, they need support; the type of unconditional support that would be offered to someone who could not fully parent their child due to physical illness.
I could relate to much of their experiences, yet I am not a substance addict. I really feel just as many of us walk a narrow line of not being homeless, there is a similar wobbly tightrope if you have been subject of abuse or have more than a handful of  ACES yourself for ending up with addiction or mental health problems. It could have easily been me or maybe you.

Anyone who has read my ramblings before, may have come across the fact that I feel the child protection system is wasting vast amounts of money firefighting instead of preventing. It does not break the cycle, as currently it re traumatises , pushing costs up for the next generation.  We need a Trevi House in every area , with the beds being used. A system that can see long term and is humane.
The programme is available

Monday, 15 January 2018

An open letter to Keith Hunter Humberside PCC



I am writing to you as I am unable to take part in the "Burnsey" show this morning due to work commitments. I am going to work this morning ,not bright eyed and bushy tailed, but rather exhausted as at the last moment I had to cover unexpected shifts , this weekend,due to various colleagues sickness and  others leave.
I work in a reasonably, responsible job, which I can't just leave when a situation arises, and I get home when I get home. Some of this may resonate with you and certainly will with the constable dealing with my case at the moment. She has apologised for not being able to see  me earlier and actually said she would  come in on her rest day. As much as I want an investigation, I refused her offer as I believe that people actually need time off.
I am no fan of Humberside Police due to the major role they have played in the situation I find myself in . I do however understand ,some of the stress they operate under. For instance, there was a problem with a very mentally unwell lady in my community, who was causing a nuisance. She was not threatening or a danger to anyone , so I called mental health services to get her more support. I was told that for confidentiality reasons I could not be told anything , which I understood, but if she caused a problem I was to call the police. I repeated again that she needed support, she was unwell enough to have recently been an inpatient and again I was told to call the police. This is where I get cross. What the hell will calling the police do to help her? Plus it is wasting their time. I am aware that the police are increasingly put under strain as society falls apart and other agencies dump their problems on them.
Yes the police do need more money in the short term. In the long term though we need a fairer society, it is the poor who are more likely to be victims of crime. Perhaps we all need less sense of entitlement and more sense of responsibility. I would welcome an answer please.

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Positive thinking

 I decided to bring something positive to this blog



Here is something else I am positive about:

  Hull Daily Mail                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         It seems reasonable doesn't it , being fined twice as much as the by the court for the theft. It may very well act as a deterrent.

Compare and contrast






Well that's enough of being positive. This pushes my buttons. What the hell is this supposed to achieve. He has already breached a restraining order and a suspended sentence. Is it supposed to reassure the victim or further demean her ?

Time and again, abusive men get away with light sentences. I cannot say whether it is lack of judicial training or conscious or unconscious bias.  The sentences handed down in some cases clearly is not a sufficient deterrent, otherwise they would not breach their restraining orders, or further abuse their victims.
I am positive that this needs to change, a victim focused process from report to court, not the muddle we currently have to face as victims , with the perpetrator controlling the situation even after the victim has had the guts to speak out.

Monday, 11 December 2017

Discrepancies

This is one of those days when I get an answer which leads onto further questions. I now from this article,  the answer to how many stay at home dad there are. 1.6 % men have given up work to be stay at home Dads.  More than 80% are full time workers.
Yet in other figures from the Office for National Statistics , approximately 10% of single parents are men. Some of them will of course unfortunately be widowers. However that will still leave a percentage point gap between stay at home Dads and those that have residence of the children.

So what?
The question it raises to me at least is if family courts normally place the child with the main carer before the parents split up , why is there a discrepancy in these figures. could it be that men who were not previously the main carer being awarded residence in a significant minority of cases?  Or are these Dad's being awarded the children and still continuing to work full time, something that many single mums on traditionally lower incomes than men struggle to do. Anecdotal evidence suggests ,  men obtaining residence then hiving the children off to the paternal grandparents. Food for thought perhaps.













Saturday, 2 September 2017

The Drama Triangle

Everywhere I've turned somebody has wanted to sacrifice me for my own good—only /they/ were the ones who benefited. And now we start on the old sacrificial merry-go-round. At what point do we stop?
Ralph Ellison

I am a parent who has been through care proceedings and I want to talk about something that was an eye opener for me, with apologies to those who are less  of a nerd. My specialist subject today is the Karpman Drama Triangle and how it applies to interactions with professionals.  The what?!

Basically ,there was this bloke , Stephen Karpman M.D. , American of course, who as a student constructed a theory of social interaction encompassing conflict , power and the shifting roles people play. Why I first became interested in it was as a domestic violence victim , I could not understand how professionals did not see past the perpetrators immediate morphing into the victim every time the police were called.  That victim status got him sympathy and belief that he was the injured party.

The Drama Triangle consists of three roles , two at the top of an inverted triangle, the persecutor and the rescuer at the top and one at the bottom is the victim. Although the roles are not static , people often have a natural leaning towards one of them initially in a relationship whether personal or professional. These are learnt roles from childhood.

I am a natural rescuer, though of course I have played of three roles at times. The reason why, is I had too much responsibility as a child and so learnt that my worth is consistent with how much I can help someone. Many caring professionals are also rescuers, but a significant minority can also spend some of their time as persecutors and victims. One such was my children's social worker. I hope I am now not turning into the persecutor but rather pointing out bad social work practice. I will not name her , lets call her Susan.

Susan was actually a little bit younger than me, she had like many come to social work late, in her late 30's . I got to know her well, too well, as she used to slot me in as the last visit of the day and sit and talk about herself. She told me about her strained relationship with her mum, the split with her ex, all the jobs she had prior to becoming a social worker,her son, a difficult removal of a new born baby, her problems with her job..... I listened. What I didn't realise at the time was that she was playing the victim and I was playing the rescuer, when in fact I was an actual victim whose needs she should have been attempting to find resources for. For instance we were supposed to have a family group conference and I should have had a carer's assessment. When my situation worsened she of course then shifted roles again to be the persecutor.

We all get payback from the roles we play. Susan initially got me to confirm her victim status, she sat on the pity pot and I said the appropriate responses. Remember on the whole I am a rescuer and it was a role I was very familiar with. It was extremely unhelpful to the situation though, by rescuing , I could stay in denial about my problems and by Susan maintaining her victim status she was telling me that she was helpless to make changes to her life let alone enable me to make changes to mine. We were both trapped on the merry go round.

Act 2
Whilst Susan continued to play out her victim role , the situation worsened and our positions on the triangle shifted. She became the rescuer of my children and my ex , plus my persecutor. I then felt like a victim, when no one would acknowledge that, I in turn became her persecutor , if she had done her job properly would we have reached crisis?

Social Work in particular
I have every empathy for social workers, heavy case loads,  working conditions and the undoubted trauma they face every day. However, and you knew there had to be a however, they are not victims. They are middle class , from social classification, and have far more choice and advantages than their clients. Including the ability to move jobs, if they really cannot stand the position they are in. Their client group, if it involves child protection or mental health has multiple disadvantages. Yes some of clients problems are inter generational, but you can't actually be blamed for your parents. Clients live very different lives,with very few options; some days just living is a miracle.

What is in it for me?
This is the single most helpful tool I have found in breaking the drama triangle. Not being over analytical, but simply working out what payback that both you and the person you are in any relationship with are getting. Is one helping the other , giving too much time , money, sympathy without any return. Do you know absolutely nothing about your friend but they know your complete history. Healthy relationships benefit both parties, I'm alright, your alright. that includes relationships with with professionals as well.



Find out more






Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Summer Hols

Children everywhere, parents getting stressed, broke and wishing them back to school. What would I give for just a couple of hours with my child.
I had to travel by bus today, there was a bright 3 year old in front, chatting away to her Grandma. On the way back, there was an older child who had evidently spent the morning getting her school uniform.

Triggers
All the time I am surrounded by children, it triggers memories of mine. Memories now tainted by separation. It is so difficult not to feel an overwhelming sadness, part of the grief cycle. My mum said she used to look out for little blond boys. My brother is now as bald as a coot, but the trauma lingers.  She has not only been estranged from her son, but is now facing the same situation with her granddaughters thanks to my controlling ex and those who have helped him.

What helps
Remember your not the only mum going through this trauma. It may feel that you are , but 14%of single parents are dads. Some of course will be agreed arrangements or as a result of bereavement, but a considerable percentage may be such as myself  and my mum, forced estrangement.
The holidays are not forever, they are already over in Scotland , just try and take each day at a time.
Be kind to yourself, we are our worst critics, you have gone through something beyond horrendous, cut yourself some slack.
Reach out for help, MatchMothers run a helpline staffed by volunteer mum's apart from their children.

Love to all separated mums everywhere x




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