Tuesday, 11 September 2018
Tonight at Westminster
Tonight at Westminster.
I’m recovering from an infection and am due on a ferry to France tomorrow morning - so regretfully I probably won’t make this evenings meeting. I’m especially disappointed to miss the opportunity to catch up with the indomitable Jean Robinson.
After a career in children’s services (including heading the nation’s response to what were then called ‘Latchkey Children’ for UK International Year of the Child), I belatedly married and gave birth to two extremely bright and talented, but medically and neurologically atypical children. One has Autism spectrum differences. Both have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and mast cell issues etc.
In 1999 a school reported us to social services because they feared that my son’s attendance figures would adversely affect their forthcoming OFSTED inspection. Despite my career history and the children’s medical conditions I was wrongly accused of MSbP and came close to losing both children.
We were saved by the late Dr Rudi Vis MP (Labour Finchley & Golders Green) and Cllr (now Lord) Monroe Palmer (Lib Dem Barnet) both of whom knew the family and took on Barnet Council and it’s social services department on our behalf.
My husband and I were interviewed by Michael Rosen on John Peel’s ‘Home Truths’ and I sent the transcript to many parliamentarians, including Dr Liam Fox MP, then shadow health spokesperson. Dr Fox recognised the issue from his Scottish GP experience and asked Earl Freddie Howe to investigate.
In a speech in November 2002 Earl Howe said of my letter as forwarded to him by Liam Fox
“ .... two and a half years ago, as Opposition Health spokesman in the House of Lords, I received a letter out of the blue from a lady living in North London, and her letter told a disturbing story. Her son, who suffers from learning difficulties and various medical problems, had been taken a number of times to the family doctor without much positive result. All of a sudden, the family received a visit from the local social services department. Before they knew what was happening, social services were accusing the boy's mother of Munchausens Syndrome by Proxy and of perpetrating abuse on him by fabricating his illness. They threatened to put the boy on the child protection register. The boy's parents, who are highly educated professional people, got in touch with their local MP and with one of their local councillors. As a result of representations from those people, social services dropped their allegations against the mother. The boy has since been diagnosed as suffering from autism and assessed as being in need of special educational help.
That case opened up for me a parallel world of which I had previously no knowledge at all - namely the hundreds of people who are accused of child abuse in its many diverse forms and guises, and who are pursued and often hounded and persecuted by the authorities, but who steadfastly maintain their innocence.......”
Between the Michael Rosen interview and the speech above, Earl Howe and Lord Tim Clement Jones had taken matters further and the issue was debated in the House of Lords on 17th October 2001. Key speakers included the Countess of Mar who as an ME sufferer is particularly concerned about false allegations relating to families with debilitating illness.
On January 25th 2004 the Sunday Times picked up my story and used it to illustrate the lack of care and concern by Margaret Hodge MP and Harriet Harman MP (I had known Harriet when I worked for UK IYC and previously through NCCL so she really should have listened to me). The story was taken up by the London Evening Standard the following day and was returned to by the Sunday Times the following week.
There was then a minor flurry of activity in Parliament with Tim Loughton MP using my name to berate Hodge and Harman. Earl Howe had informed many colleagues about the issue, amongst these were Dr Liam Fox, Caroline Spellman, Dominic Grieve, Tim Loughton. Until his untimely death we had the strong support of the former Attorney General Sir (later Lord) Nicholas Lyell with whom I’d worked in International Year of the Child. For the Lib Dems we had the support of Lord Tim Clement Jones, Baroness Shirley Williams and others. In Portcullis House, Baroness Williams made an impassioned speech to leaders of Social Services and major charities, but found them extremely defensive. The only Labour support was from Claire Curtis Thomas MP who was a friend and associate of Shirley Williams. The rest of the Labour Party were always too much on the defensive. This was a scandal which had been allowed to develop when they were in power and they therefore needed to defend their position.
The Tories promised action if they came to power but promptly forgot all about it. Earl Howe was given government responsibility and therefore claimed that he “couldn’t cross departmental boundaries”. In opposition he’d frequently referred to the Edmund Burke / John F Kennedy / John Stuart Mill quote “The Only Thing Necessary for the Triumph of Evil is that Good Men Do Nothing” in power he broke all his promises and did nothing at all - neither did Liam Fox or Dominic Grieve. Tim Loughton changed his tune from acknowledging this to be a widespread problem to suggesting that it was a handful of isolated instances.
Tony Blair exacerbated the issue when he started the system of rewards for adoption but this has been massively escalated by the Tory Government.
The change from Statements of Special Educational Needs to EHCPs and associated directives on working together has massively increased the problem as many are working beyond their level of expertise, experience and training. I first wrote about this in February 2017 but am astounded by the rapid escalation since then.
I founded Parents Protecting Children UK in 2001 following the Lords Debate - initially as a website and now on Facebook with 2000 followers. Over the years I’ve written many articles, attended and spoken at many conferences, supported many families. I have much historical knowledge to share and vast amounts of case notes and information from families. I’m getting older and am delighted that Leigh Jackman and Fiightback are now allowing me to take more of a back seat in terms of family support, but I’m ready, willing and able to share my knowledge and to be involved in political and research initiatives. I hope all goes well tonight and that this is the beginning of the end.
I felt a sense of irony during the recent Irish visit of Pope Francis, when senior politicians and church people were falling over themselves to apologise for the past forced adoptions and transportations - whilst there is an ever growing sandal of today’s forced adoptions on false allegations of Fii and MSbP. Children are removed by the family courts, not because any actual or proven abuse has taken place, but because a group of over excited people got together in a secret meeting and fantasised that there may be a possibility of future emotional abuse. Whatever they were imagining would surely be far far far less than the actual abuse then inflicted on that child by being ripped from parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends.
Our daughter, who was five at the time we were investigated, became fearful of being taken from me, and lost much of her independence; this has never been fully regained. I overheard two of her friends plotting how they would rescue her if she were taken into care. Jan Loxley Blount
Jan Loxley Blount
11 September 2018