Sunday, 26 February 2017
For conference report.
For Westminster Forum Child Protection
Conference Report 23/02/17
In January 2014, I had a phone call from a colleague who keeps better records than I do.
"Have you noticed the rise in medical and autism Child Protection cases?"
"Yes, its driving me crazy"
"They all seem to come from a few places."
I Googled the areas she mentioned.
"Oh my goodness, they're the pilot areas for the new Education Health and Care Plans."
"I knew there had to be an explanation."
"If these are the trials, then we'll be inundated when EHCPs roll out nationwide in September."
Sure enough, over the past two and a half years things have continued to escalate.
Published statistics show rises in Child Protection and Family Court cases over the same time period and various explanations have been given. I think one important reason that's been missed, is the change from Statements of Special Educational Needs to EHCPs, coupled with directives to 'work together'. These changes have led to a rise in education, health and social care practitioners (including unqualified ancillary workers) operating in areas beyond their skills, training, experience, expertise and competence. They 'fail to safety' by making risk assessments, where those assessing risk have little or no knowledge of autism, connective tissue disorders, ME / CFS or a plethora of other difficulties. To the uninitiated these conditions can mimic signs of attachment disorders or abuse. Wrong calls are made and damaging investigations opened into families who are not abusive in any way, but whose children may need special educational, medical or social support.
It seems that, although the parents of special needs children may also have special needs, and notwithstanding the Autism Act 2009, few authorities give Autism Awareness or Complex and Additional Needs training to Social Workers. Cambridge University research has shown that children of autistic women are more likely than others to be investigated for possible emotional abuse. http://bit.ly/2hKAv3s
This comment is from a mum, whose family are facing unhelpful professional intervention:
"There is an assumption of competence by professionals of each other. In our county Social Workers are not trained to recognise signs of autism and they will assume abuse when they see those signs. If the parent asks for a referral to get the child assessed, diagnosis will be opposed or blocked on the basis of the Social Worker's professional opinion. The family ends up in the Child Protection system, or even in the Family Courts because the Social Worker misreads the signs, and few parents know enough to ensure that a court appointed expert has appropriate knowledge of autism to correctly appraise what they see.
Until professionals stop making assumptions of competence of other professionals, we will be stuck in a situation where children with genuine medical needs are regarded as abused by their family and are actually abused by a system that tears them away from loving families and then expresses surprise when they get worse, not better, in a new setting. When it turns out a professional was wrong, no one even apologises to the child or the family for the damage done. That needs fixing before we start assuming we have hundreds of thousands of hidden abused children."
A retired university lecturer in autism replied
"Well put ".
Jan Loxley Blount TCert., Diploma in Child Development.
Parents Protecting Children UK was formed in the aftermath of the 17th October 2001 House of Lords Debate on False and Misleading Accusations of Child Abuse. We serve families with complex and additional needs, who have been caught up in the Child Protection system. Our Facebook community currently has around 1250 followers. https://www.facebook.com/PPPC.UK/ We are currently collating results of a survey which lists Local Authorities who have failed to understand unusual family situations and have reported these as emotional abuse. We work closely with False Allegations Support Organisation, Parents Against Injustice Network and a variety of condition based organisations and family support groups