What do our MPs who represent us in Parliament think about all this?
Prime Minister Responds on Adoption
Q6.  John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD): In England in 2006, 4,160 children under five were taken into care and more than 60 per cent. of them—2,490—were adopted. However, in Scotland 574 left care and 373, roughly 64 per cent., went home to their parents. Can the Prime Minister explain why in England children under five who leave care get adopted, while in Scotland they go home to their parents?
The Prime Minister: Social work legislation in the two countries is, of course, different. I shall look at the figures that the hon. Gentleman has put before me. But as is known, we have made strenuous efforts to try to ensure that children in difficulty are given the proper upbringing, whether that is by returning to their parents or, where it is essential, by being fostered or adopted. I will continue to look at the matter, but the hon. Gentleman has to understand that social work practice in the two countries is different.
This does go to the nub of the issue. What is so different between parents in England and parents in Scotland that means that it is “essential” for under 5s to get adopted in England, but they can go home to their parents in Scotland?
Early Day Motions
EDMs are motions in parliament. Normally they don’t get debated. However, they are a sort of petition signed only by Members of Parliament. You can ask your MP to sign an EDM. You need to say which number EDM it is. MPs who are members of the government cannot sign EDMs, but you can ask them to write a letter to the minister in support of the EDM.
That this House notes that local authorities and their staff are incentivised to ensure that children are adopted; is concerned about increasing numbers of babies being taken into care, not for the safety of the infant, but because they are easy to get adopted; and calls urgently for effective scrutiny of care proceedings to stop this from happening.
That this House believes that mothers should be encouraged to breastfeed as this is in the interests of the long-term health of babies; recognises that for newborn babies this means breastfeeding on demand; further believes that newborn babies in care should also be breastfed on demand where this does not result in any risk to the baby; and calls for the Government to introduce guidelines to ensure that facilities are provided to ensure that newborn babies can be breastfed on demand.
That this House notes the comments of a senior social worker that meetings have been held during which solicitors acting for parents have discussed how to undermine the cases of their clients; further notes that there are many odd cases in which solicitors fail to oppose care proceedings or accept that the section 31 threshold has been met notwithstanding the opposition of their clients; recognises that reporting and obtaining the investigation of such behaviour outwith parliamentary proceedings remains a contempt of court for hon. Members; and asks the Solicitors Regulatory Authority to review the implementation of the new solicitors’ code of conduct and how this relates to conflicts of interest in the Family Court.
That this House regrets the Government’s proposals to retain secrecy within the family courts; believes that this secrecy permeates bad practice throughout the whole system of children services; feels that it is possible to protect the identity of the child while allowing parents to talk and seek advice publicly about their treatment in the family courts, and that professional witnesses should be uniquely identified to monitor consistency; further believes that every case should have an anonymised judgement handed to the parents that they can discuss publicly; and calls on the Government to recognise that there are very serious problems in the system that have been postponed rather than resolved by the limited proposals contained within the consultation document.
That this House notes that in an email dated 24th October 2000, John Radford, Doncaster’s then Director of Public Health, described the issue of research on babies by Dr David Southall at Doncaster Hospital in the late 1980s as `potentially a hot potato as to my recall the intervention resulted in increased deaths and didn’t have proper consent’; expresses concern that the details of this research and its outcomes have been covered up by the health authorities; expresses particular concern that the research protocol specifically required that no action be taken to prevent cot death in the children selected until sufficient data had been collected; notes that the inquiry into CNEP ignored CNEP in Doncaster; and calls for a public inquiry into this and other research managed by Dr Southall to identify why the checks and balances in the system failed.
That this House notes that it is common practice for a firm of solicitors to perform outsourced work for a local authority and also to represent parents when parties in cases against the same local authority; notes and is surprised that this conflict of interest is acceptable under the professional conduct rules; understands that some parents would be surprised to find that this is the case; and calls for the Law Society to require that parents be asked to confirm in writing that they recognise that the firm they are instructing is conflicted in this way as part of the client engagement process.
That this House notes that from time to time the advice given by an expert appointed by one party to a court case is used to permit the exclusion of capacity of a further party to that case and then the Official Solicitor is brought in to act on behalf of the latter party; believes that it is an unacceptable conflict of interest; and calls, notwithstanding the duty of experts to the court, for the Government to introduce legislation to prevent this from occurring.
Since then, further EDMs have been tabled, mainly by John Hemming MP. The most recent ones are:
That this House notes the attempts by a group of full-time expert witnesses to discredit the report of Professor Jane Ireland; recognises that the report, which indicates that potentially a majority of conclusions in care proceedings, which rely on these experts, are unsafe, raises serious concerns about their practice; believes, however, that the vitriolic response of those expert witnesses and the nature of the ad hominem attacks on Professor Ireland raise further concerns about the practice of those expert witnesses who have launched into such a campaign of attacks; is saddened by the complacent response of the Government which is trying to argue that the research is not representative; further notes that it is clearly representative of three courts, the bundles of which were reviewed;furthernotes that, in the same manner as an opinion poll, it is reasonable to presume that it gives a reasonable guide as to the reliability of expert evidence in the rest of the English and Welsh jurisdiction; and calls for an urgent reconsideration by the Government ofits position on this.
That this House believes that hon. Members should be permitted to refer the work of incompetent experts working in Family Courts to the General Medical Council, Health Professions Council or other regulators without facing the risk of proceedings for contempt of court; and calls for Family Proceedings (Amendment) (No. 2) Rules 2009 SI/2009/857 to be changed to permit this.
That this House notes the report by Professor Jane Ireland, commissioned by the Family Justice Council, in which she studied 100 expert reports from family court proceedings; further notes that
- 20 per cent. were written by people not qualified,
- a further 20 per cent. by people writing outside their knowledge and qualifications,
- 65 per cent. were `poor’ or `very poor’
- and 90 per cent. were written by people who were not in current practice;
recognises that this raises a massive question as to whether or not the judgments of the courts in the majority of care proceedings are reliable; and calls for a substantial further opening of the courts to enable the quality of evidence given to be subject to adequate real time scrutiny.