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Ed Balls Agrees To Meet Careleavers in light of Social Services and Government Failures

3rd Dec 2008 | in Child Protection


Article by Teresa Cooper

Image reflects the people’s anger at those meant to protect children.  No2abuse recognises there are MP’s who are working hard for children but sadly too many are not

Whilst the Baby P case remains very much in the public eye child protection has become the focus of attention once again. When cases are brought to the attention of the public eye, care leavers across the country feel the unease as the same failures they befell as children are still very much present today. With everyone focusing on those in power and willing them to make the right decisions very little is to be gained if the very key to resolution are ignored or left unheard.

With many failures leaving children unprotected now is the time to seek the expertise of the care leavers as their experiences can provide the most valuable answers and productive out come. A care leavers first hand experiences, knowledge of the failing system and willingness to work with the government is a commendable effort on their part and shows the strength and determination to work towards change that serves to benefit where every child matters. To achieve this care leavers need to be listened too and at the very least heard.

Ed Balls the Children’s Secretary has responded positively and accepted a request via an APG meeting from care leavers to discuss the issues surrounding child protection and every child matters. Is this the start of a fresh and constructive way forward? With all the problems faced this meeting can only scratch the surface and expect an agenda to address the current issues but also to put forward remedies to the children’s minister.

In order to do this effectively many topics will fall into each topic including the need to acknowledge all the past issues and then every one needs to address and seek resolution to those issues. It would be very difficult to address current issues if the past mistakes are put on the back burner as thats where some of the original problems lay and are current today in the failures of protecting children. Failing the protection of children is not something that has come about in recent years as history shows us and has been an ongoing problem. 

Why are the social services still very much in the dark ages despite vast amounts of funding?

What could and should be discussed in such a meeting?

Child Protection - which is the main and current topic since the death of Baby P who died at the hands of his mother, her partner and the lodger Owens.

Child Welfare - who are the children and families with extra needs

Looked after children needs to be addressed because with growing numbers of children being placed in care. Many face an unhealthy lifestyle being moved from one placement to the next, changing schools, being abused and despite the money tax payers pay the looked after children are not benefiting.

Children placed in care are three time more likely to die than others and a DCSF report showed that 800 children have died in care in the last ten years which is on average 2 a week so where does this leave children in need of protection who are then placed in care and should be safe from harm and neglect?

The care system needs to be addressed and questions asked as to why a child’s welfare has taken over a child in danger leaving 80% of child protection cases missed and hundreds of children taken from parents for the most ludicrous reasons such as bunking school, learning difficulties and mental health problems where it is even noted the child is well looked after. This is now a daily occurrence and the serious breakdown in social services is of concern to care leavers as the looked after child inevitably becomes themselves a care leaver

Historic abuse where all the past failures have occurred, some investigated and many others ignored like Kendall House . Historic abuse cases are relevant in learning from past mistakes as those mistakes are a current problem and the DCSF took the shocking approach to ignore historic abuse because they felt it had already been covered and instead suggests the civil route which is not the answer. It is unacceptable to ignore abuse when it happens in the care system and when it is exposed to send victims and survivors through the civil courts. This method does not protect other children being abused by the carers still in the system because past abuse has been ignored by the DCSF.

Then there is the need to address how Care leavers can help towards changes and be of service to the social care system

Whilst Care leavers could support families, social workers, help with the mass overload of paperwork, take part in the training of social workers or help towards decisions on children at risk their personal experiences are often undermined or ignored. These personal experiences may provide a useful tool that even the best text book can not teach and despite qualifications that are truly outstanding it can’t teach what experience does.

Care leavers would also well suit as McKenzie friends if the government were to help fund such training and offer funding which will support families not only going through the failing system, but help prevent unnecessary cases being dragged through the secret family courts wasting millions of pounds that should be better spent on child protection.

Many vulnerable parents are unable to represent themselves be it learning difficulty or other health difficulties and SS take advantage of this. Too often are social services resorting to the secret family courts where they not only know they are protected even when they are in the wrong but they also have the power to misrepresent the welfare of any child that goes unchallenged when innocent parents are unable to seek the openness needed to challenge any wrong decisions or doings.

Care leavers offering support and a chance to participate doesn’t exempt them from the stringent vetting processes needed to ensure the safety of every child though, nor should their past as an abused child exempt them from supporting a system that is failing the needs of children both in and out of the care system and needs support. There are many good care leavers who are more than capable of helping but because of the social services attitudes and social branding, care leavers are exempt from helping, ignored, not taken seriously despite their efforts and are often refused even the basic jobs working with children because they were in care or abused as a child.

Social Services have lost their direction and the almighty SS had an “extra” 40million pounds pumped into them for legal costs chasing parents in secret courts. They are not there to help the family anymore and resources are outsourced to others like the NSPCC who already make millions out of the publics generosity and also government funding/grants. The NSPCC are known to have been involved in many of the cases we read about where children have died also from their failures and they are seen to be involved in many of the forced adoption cases. Their close relationship with the SS leaves very little confidence in their so called independence when they are now seen merely as an extension of the social services.

Social Services have become observers of families and pass those families from one sector to another. Communication becomes a problem, files get lost or delayed and the old fashioned social worker who would spend his/her time with families and providing resources to keep families together are now sat at desks filling out forms. But it doesn’t end there and for those who don’t understand the SS a typical example ...

A couple with a child with special needs requests support and help. The parents will push for support and help with their child but social services have a budget and that budget doesn’t include resources for the child not in their care. On average a foster carer looking after a child with special needs will get over £500pw not including the cost fighting to take the child from the parent but had the child of stayed at home the costs to provide resources for the child is considerably lower but the SS can’t get those costs met as they don’t have the resources some claim. They will get funding to start proceedings to take the child into care and will then inevitably receive funding once the child is in care which goes into a “pot”. This is not only bad practice but wastes money that could be better spent on services to children and families to support families together as a family and improve the lives of the child/ren.

The Government pumped in an extra 40 million pounds of tax payers money to pay for court hearings in the forced removal of children. Yes it is a lot of money because that is 40 million pounds not spent on keeping families together who have extra needs and come under the child welfare aspect and money that could be better spent towards child protection thus keeping children safe. Costs paid out of taxpayer-funded legal aid to barristers in family court cases have gone up by almost a third in five years and have now reached nearly £100million a year

Meanwhile the costs of the process of investigating allegations arising out of the child abuse syndromes rose to an estimated at 1 billion per year with the more prominent experts receiving fees for the preparation of their reports and appearances in court in excess of 100,000 a year.

Emotional abuse is a money maker and in 2007 6,700 children were put on the child protection register for emotional abuse and yet only 2,600 for sexual abuse and 5,100 for physical abuse.

One site quotes

“Very highly paid “professionals” presume to “assess” the parenting skills of distraught mothers who have had their children taken into care.(around £3000 per 2-3 hour session ),“legal aid lawyers” (a case in the family courts costs an average of £70,000 per day so total legal costs of over £500,000 for one case are not unusual! ,)Therapists, psychiatrists , and Tame medical experts somehow always side with social services against the parents.(They also receive around £3000 for one afternoon session plus a report)
Foster parents(up to ?400per week per child plus allowances for Xmas and holidays)Special schools charging up to ?7000 per week per child(as shown on TV channel 4,) Adoption and fostering agencies charging up to ?18,000 per placement. “

It is not unheard of for court costs in just one case of a child’s welfare where the child is eventually removed to easily reach £500.000.  Thats how much social services will run up in evaluations of the parent, assessments of the children, expert fees, contact centers,contact workers and this is on children with extra needs and not a child in danger or at immediate risk.

Experts in these cases are paid in excess of £28,000 per simple report

SS are very busy chasing the cases that will get them more funding the easiest way and to do that they target vulnerable families especially those with learning difficulties, ill or those with a mental health problem. Yet they waste tax payers money chasing many innocent families through the secret family courts that make many professions a lot of money. This is common place today and parents with extra needs are targeted instead of being supported. The solicitors will argue that the mother maybe a risk or in many cases make the mother out to be a psychopath when they have never shown any form of abuse to her child/ren. It’s an easy way for these professionals to secure their own income and drag things out as long as possible. It’s a huge money making tactic and the only ones who lose out are the children with innocent parents which distracts from children at risk.

Lack of Social Workers

There is also a lack of social workers in the UK and the Government are importing them from all over the world to fill the positions most people here do not want to do. Social workers are demoralised and often leave and each social worker will be inundated with far too many cases than they can cope with alone. Young student social workers are now taking on children’s cases, they do not have the experience or wisdom and therefor fail and they don’t even have children of their own to understand children’s needs. Young, inexperienced or experienced social workers trying to highlight a problem are often cut down by their target or fund driven seniors leaving many cases of abuse to escalate.

Do decision makers understand the difference between child protection and a child’s welfare? Clearly not because they have written up what they perceive to be a well thought out plan in every child matters but the focus has remained on a child’s welfare and 80% of children at risk are missed as they come under child protection.

In every child matters the programme demands that all organisations that provide services to children work together in more integrated and effective ways but this isn’t the case and it is a lack of communication and understanding between the various bodies that create the child at risk to be missed. The in-house bullying amongst seniors and front line social workers is increasing and despite more government funding, more departments being created, a constant change within departments and an unhealthy and unbalanced strategy is taking it’s toll. A lack of social workers puts pressure on existing social workers who are overloaded with cases and with each case comes more paperwork and with 80% time spent on paperwork and an IT system that benefits the management is not effective where children at risk are concerned. An IT system that cost tax payers millions of pounds and millions being poured in to the new ITC against those working with children’s approval and will render vulnerable children’s data available to abusers. The government isn’t even able to protect prison workers, armed forces, NI details etc safe so what is going to happen when the children’s data ends up with the same fate or is easily obtainable?

Many private fostering and adoption agencies are run by ex social workers who set themselves staggering wage packets. The NSPCC received over 30 million pounds from the DCSF in 2007 to fund their free helplines including childline and getting more government funding than ever whilst the small organisations struggle to compete and do a vast amount of work with victims and survivors of abuse. The largest independent agency Foster Care Associates made 56million pounds in 2003 alone. The NSPCC made a staggering 250 million on its Full Stop Campaign and work heavily with Social Services yet claim to be independent but that is now questionable as a growing trend in the NSPCC’s part in the removal of children taken from families on the basis, they “might, maybe or possibly” abuse the child takes over “the child at risk” which is a growing trend. This technique is distracting from serious abuse and those who do report abuse are often ignored. This is not the answer.

Permanence orders which is another name for fostering or adoption are another problem and not a resolution leaving many children forcibly moved from one placement to another until they are 18 years old, removed from their entire family and siblings as if they didn’t exist and those children are very unhappy. These children are ignored by social workers and the NSPCC on what they want because those children have no voice. What also has been ignored is finding out from those who have experienced this process what the end results are and many of those children now adults are very unhappy with how they were treated, commited suicide and often resent the social workers who have done this to them. They have vivid memories of how they were stripped from their families or bad experiences with adoptive parents who they had a bad relationships with. Then they go through the heartbreaking process of having to find their real families once they find out and they find themselves in the middle and not fitting in anywhere. Some work but we need to find out how many do not work and I think we have under estimated the damage done.

The children heard screaming in courts as they are forcibly removed from their families and one such video reflects this situation where the children are heard screaming and severely distressed as social workers physically drag them away as police officers take part in dragging them away and they watch their family pysically removed and thats psychologically serious abuse but the social workers, police and all involved refuse to acknowledge they are abusing that child in that harsh and cold process.

When a child is freed for a adoption and very often the adoptive parents reject the child and place them back into foster care, parents are never notified that their children are back in care.
Why is there no one over seeing what happens to those children put out for adoption?
Judges and parents think the children go to adoption panels who then home the children with wonderful adoptive parents but are they homed in these families?

This needs to be looked into urgently so this is one of the topics Ed Balls also needs to address instead of staying in his Ivory Tower where nothing is done or improved.

Because of the serious failures and since the death of Baby P going public, in the last two weeks people with no experience at all have set up groups, now want to be social workers or help fund the NSPCC. Each person/stranger who sets up a group on behalf of any child murdered should be put through the rigorous police checks because vulnerable families and children inevitably visit those groups. For every 100 000 in a group how many paedophiles and abusers are likely to be in that figure? Paedophiles will embed themselves into groups where they know vulnerable parents and children will go and they do sit, watch and wait ready to play the trusting friend to an unsuspecting single mum or teenager and, the Paedophile will watch to see who posts. These abusers are not stupid and they know people who are very vulnerable go to such a group in despair or in support when a child has died from abuse. It is great to see the public want to support but parents need to remain vigilant.


  • On 3rd Dec 2008 at 11:58 PM Teresa said...

    A small group of careleavers discussed the issues I raised and agreed, something needed to be done in light of the Baby P situation. One of the careleavers was asked by me, to deal with my request to a meeting with Ed Balls. I also wanted to raise the Kendall House abuse situation with him. I was ill at the time and unable to travel to London. Because the meeting was agreed, via David Kidney MP, it got complicated. I appear to of been cut out but dont want to say anything incase I am reading too much into it.

    Many people are not aware of the APG meetings which are held monthly in Parliament on looked after children and care leavers and I have only recently been aware of these meetings myself. The Who Cares Trust do an amazing job and organise the meetings and topics for each month. I have requested a meeting for children in care with learning difficulties, disabilities and mental health issues because they are very much without voice and I would like to see positive changes that also cater for their needs.

    These meetings are to give children in care not only the chance to have a say but also gives care leavers and those involved the chance to speak. We get to see what is done or some would say what isn’t being done but we have to thank David Kidney and The Who Cares Trust for making the meetings possible.

    It has been a very intense time for careleavers as they have suffered abuse within the home and ended up in the care system so fully understand both sides of the situation where failures in child protection and a child’s welfare are concerned. Many have also been abused or failed within the care system and there for seek to speak up and push for the changes needed to keep children safe once received into care and for those currently in care. Those children too will inevitably become care leavers one day and we all work hard to push for changes in how care leavers are treated so they have an easier transition when they have left care.

    Its easier said than done when the system itself ignores care leavers and stigmatises against them and also the social branding children receive once they have left care.

    These are obstacles and issues do need to be addressed in the meetings and these experiences should be used in a positive way to not only help those in care, those suffering at home and needing to be in care, when they leave care but also the Government who will benefit by listening to careleavers and those working to ensure the welfare of families and their children.

    Others who are not care leavers should be able to work confidently with careleavers and create a balanced and strong network to help towards these changes.

    I am blessed to be able to work with some very good people who are not careleavers and see them work hard whilst the general public have no idea what everyone does behind the scenes.

    Public awareness of what’s going on is needed for the sake of all children not just our own.

    Once we receive a date for the meeting the results of that meeting will be disclosed in due course and we hope Ed Balls ensures the meeting takes place very soon

    I personally think Ed Balls should set aside time for perhaps several meetings, 2 hours per meeting to cover various topics by those who are working towards change. It will be to his benefit and that of the social services and families.

  • On 5th Dec 2008 at 07:45 AM michaelmac said...

    Teresa i sent you a story last night That shows how every child does not matter, Do you honestly believe Balls is going to care, He has proved that he will hide the truth if the people are labour supporters, You know i sent an email to him about port tolbot and neath social services, The silence is deafening

  • On 7th Dec 2008 at 06:09 AM Teresa said...

    I would like to say thankyou to Justice for Families and to a McKenzie friend who have been amazing to work with, do amazing things for families who are suffering the injustices of the social services and have contributed to the main article here. Thankyou to Natasha who has also been working with us all and also doing an amazing job

  • On 27th Jan 2009 at 02:27 AM Teresa said...

    Sadly I was excluded from the meeting that took place in December much to my shock. Delma Hughs and Peter Mccarplin,  two psychologists and careleavers led the way to exclude me.

    I am naturally upset and my emails have not been answered and yes I was angry which was evident but now I have decided that hands on is having a greater affect and supporting those in need direct is something no meeting can achieve.

    If those who have excluded me feel they can achieve more in one meeting that does not represent all those suffering social services failure’s, then thats fine.. but that meeting can not accurately represent the many when most voices have been excluded, once again.

    I was shut off because they did not want me to expose Kendall House. They had their own agenda and drove me over the edge.


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