Sherlock’s Back

We knew he’d be back didn’t we. We knew that somehow he would bounce rather than splat, and we knew he’d be just as unblinkingly confident of his own rightness.

Gratuitous Cumberbatch photo, courtesy of Wikipedia

Gratuitous Cumberbatch photo, courtesy of Wikipedia – don’t let it distract you from the facts

Also this week, Mr Booker is back with more tales of injustice, more drama and intrigue. I, Cumberbatch-like, shall remain emotionally detached and analytical. I shall use my powers of deduction and leave you ignoramuses (ignoramusi?) to work it out… I have had to meditate in my mind palace for some time before achieving this state of external calm. I have the last of the Xmas 2013 sloe gin in my mind palace*.

But first, I do want to note something rather different from the Telegraph, because here at Pink Tape we love a bit of balance and to give credit where it is due – and before I had to retire to my gin palace I had resolved to flag it up as an example of some good journalism from a newspaper I have sometimes been critical of. The Telegraph ran today a rather excellent explanatory article about the criminal bar “strike” tomorrow : Criminal Barristers Deserve Justice Too. A rather sobering piece for the start of 2014, but it is recommended reading for those wondering what on earth the bar are complaining about (and those, like my brother, who wondered over Sunday lunch how barristers can strike at all – answer, they can’t really so they will have a mass day of non-attendance, for which they will very probably be subject to professional conduct disciplinary proceedings).

So, back to the latest from Mr Booker : The Lunatics Take Over The Asylum In ‘Caring’ Britain. I am not going to make any positive assertions about this case – because this is not a case where there are extant proceedings or any other publicly available information to rely upon – the only information we have is that which is set out in the article. But I think it is worth taking a careful look at what we do have and seeing how far that takes us. Read the original article first, and then read it with this observations in this post in mind – consider this as context rather than commentary. It is too early in the new year for ranting… Continue Reading…

Return of the Tzar

Narey’s back on his adoption drum, but this time it’s in a journal not a newspaper (Putting the child first: the case for care for neglected children, Families, Relationships and Societies, Volume 2, Number 3, November 2013 , pp. 463-466(4) - you can access it with a free trial account). It says nothing new, and offers some highly selective quotations from a 2010 Demos report on the care system that strongly imply that Demos concluded care was hunky dory, which is an odd thing to do of a report which purports to offer a nuanced view of the care system and what it might be if reformed:

“In this report we will consider what the care system would look like if it were reconfigured to avoid the delay, instability and abrupt transitions that many young people still experience. We go on to show that this type of system could also be less costly to the state in both the short term and over the long term.”

Of course, the sensible thing is to read the whole Demos report here, but just to recalibrate the scales I thought it might be worth dropping in some equally selective but contrasting quotes here.

On change of social worker:

“Another issue that arose during our interviews was the frequency with which social workers changed. Many of the children we spoke to assured us that this was just as disruptive as a placement move, as it required a new relationship to be formed, repetition of case details and circumstances, and a general loss of continuity in support. “

On placement moves:

“Ward contrasts the normal experience of children, who on average move home three times before adulthood, and children in care, who can commonly experience this level of disruption in one year. Her study examining data of 242 children over a period of at least 3.5 years in six local authorities found that the median length of placements in foster care was 4 months and in residential care it was 3.5 months.191 Although the numbers of placements varied according to children’s ages and attributes, Ward noted that even very young children with no additional support needs experienced frequent moves – 17 per cent of those children between 0 and 4 years old had had more than five placements during the study period.  Overall, only 19 per cent of the children in the study remained in the same placement during the study period, 41 per cent had had one or two placements, 22 per cent had had more than five, while 4 per cent had 10 or more. One had had 29 placements. 

Furthermore, it seemed that the majority of placement moves are not made at the request of the children involved, and arguably are not carried out for the child’s own wellbeing. Ward found that 43 per cent of placement moves were initiated and planned by the local authority, and often resource or practice- led, ‘occasioned by a shortage of suitable placements, a lack of choice or appropriate planning’. “

On placement for adoption:

“However, we cannot discount the fact that many placements end in an unplanned way, and this breakdown may well be due to a lack of support, in particular, mental health support. As we mention in chapter 7, the number of adoptions – once seen as the most stable, ‘gold standard’ of care placement – which are breaking down seem to be on the increase. Although local authorities do not collect official statistics on how many of their adoptive placements fail, a recent freedom of information request sent to all local authorities by More4 News found that the number of adoptions which have broken down, and children have been returned to care, had doubled between 2005 and 2009.201 The increase in breakdowns comes despite a fall in the number of children being adopted. During the year ending 31 March 2008 3,200 children looked after were adopted. This represents a 5 per cent decrease from 2007 and a 16 per cent decrease from the 2003/4 figure of 3,800.202 Adoption UK estimates that as many as one-third of adoptions break down, while the British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) estimates that one in five fail even before an adoption order is granted.”

I could go on, but you get the point. It’s nuanced.

I wrote about Narey and his mission when he first became the Times Tzar in the summer of 2011 (The Narey Report – A Blueprint for the Nation’s Lost Children?) and subsequently wrote again on the topic that autumn (Narey Report Part II – Blueprint or Fairy Story?). He referenced the Demos report in his 2011 Blueprint. And I observed then :

“Demos study” (p10) In Loco Parentis, Celia Hannon Claudia Wood Louise Bazalgette, Demos, 2010, but also see another more recent study by Demos, not mentioned by Narey: The Home Front, Jen Lexmond, Louise Bazalgette, Julia Margo, 2011, which recommends better support for parents in order to achieve better outcomes for children.”

I also wrote that I was “surprised at both the choice and use of source material and the tendency to compress nuanced research conclusions and complex issues into soundbites, apparently in uncomplicated support of Mr Narey’s arguments”. Ha, I used that “nuanced” word then too. Surprisingly apt quotation.

I could write more, but on reflection my earlier blog posts are as applicable now as then, and still pretty funny. I commend them immodestly to you.

Never let the facts get in the way of a good story eh?

UPDATE Weds eve 4 Dec : I’ve now written an updating post on this topic here.

UPDATE 15 Apr 14 : Final Chapter here on Suesspicious Minds blog

Over the weekend a highly concerning story began to be reported in the press – the headline and byline read as follows: “‘Operate on this mother so that we can take her baby’ A mother was given a caesarean section while unconscious – then social services put her baby into care.”

It started in the Sunday Telegraph, courtesy of Christopher Booker, a journalist well known as a critic of the family justice system – and it spread like wildfire. It started, it was said, when the woman had something of a panic attack when she couldn’t find the passports for her two daughters, who were with her mother back in Italy.” This led to her calling the police, family members on enquiry raising concern about her mental health conditions and non-compliance with medication, and ultimately to being detained hospital under the Mental Health Act, where she remained until the c-section described above.

Within hours of the original post another Telegraph journalist, Colin Freeman, was reporting that Essex social services obtained a High Court order against the woman that allowed her to be forcibly sedated and her child to be taken from her womb” by caesarean section according to legal documents seen by this newspaper”. The case, it was said raises fresh questions about the extent of social workers’ powers”. The report stated that “The woman…was forcibly sedated. When she woke up she was told that the child had been delivered by C-section and taken into care.”

On Sunday night I posted a short blog post asking for information when a judgment was published on Bailii. Lawyers found nothing, even though the baby was now 15 months old. Continue Reading…