Children’s social care review feeds disability discrimination

Logo of The independent review of children's social care, black lower case letters on a beige background.  Three coloured diamond shapes slot together at different angles.

A year ago, in August 2021, together with Legal Action for Women which co-ordinates Support Not Separation, we sent in joint evidence to the Independent review of children’s social care. The Review was: “A once in a generation opportunity to transform the children’s social care system and provide children with loving, safe and stable families.”

We highlighted the lack of Care Act support for disabled mothers, and the disproportionate number of disabled children and teenagers in “care”, who suffer some of the worst institutional conditions and abuse, such as restraint and solitary confinement.

The Review Chair, Josh MacAlister, issued his report and recommendations in May 2022. The report and other documents are hundreds of pages long.

We concluded that most of his proposals are not in the “best interest” of children or their mothers, primary carers and wider family. And, if brought in, will cause further harm. 

The report mainly recommends “Family Help”. But they don’t mean practical help, they mean a raft of professionals getting involved and commenting on your life. They recommend massive spending on recruiting and training more social workers. Increasing the number, involvement and powers of social workers and other professionals in family life will only feed the prejudices which social workers and other professionals already exercise against disabled mothers and other disadvantaged mothers. Social workers are notorious for unfeeling decisions and cutting support in adult social care too.

The review recommends recruiting more foster carers, which will strike fear into the hearts of disabled mothers. Treated as “unfit mothers”, we and our children suffer traumatic separation via fostering and adoption. It will increase the number of disabled women who decide not to have children due to the power of the authorities and lack of support. The report allows rampant privatisation of children’s services to continue; and recommends cutting what few independent safeguards against state power currently exist.

Nor has the Review addressed the legal obligations of Councils to provide support to disabled mothers under Care Act “outcomes” which include caring responsibilities for a child. Councils routinely put disabled mothers under child protection instead of providing support. Section 12 of the Care Act lays down the duty to assess the needs of the family and to carry out dual assessments where necessary. Ealing was found in breach of this duty in 2019 and had to pay childcare costs and compensation to the disabled mother. By ignoring this duty, the Review perpetuates how the needs of mothers and children are separated off, to the detriment of both.

Read our detailed criticisms and what we are calling for, here.

– Implement Care Act support for disabled mothers who have caring responsibilities for a child.  Stop taking children from disabled mothers on the basis that having a disabled mother is “harm” to a child. Support for “child carers” should start with social care services for disabled parents.

– Quality support services of our choice and proper financial recognition of caring work, to enable disabled children and young people to stay with their family. Young disabled people are currently placed in institutions far away, often run by profiteer companies.

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