News from the Disabled Mothers’ Rights Campaign

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Disabled Mothers' Rights Campaign -- to have and keep our kids.  Drawing based on the wheelchair user symbol.  A mum using a wheelchair lifts her baby up to her face.  They are looking at each other.

Newsletter February 2023
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The Disabled Mothers’ Rights Campaign (DMRC) brings disabled mothers together to defend our rights to have a family and to keep our children. The campaign is co-ordinated by WinVisible and is part of Support Not Separation (SNS).  

Together with SNS, we worked with Channel 5 News on a breakthrough feature based on disabled mothers’ direct experience, confirmed by research. The research showed that, shockingly, parents with a learning disability are 54 times more likely to have their children taken into care. 

The 5 News piece was broadcast on 25 January 2023. Watch the video here (captions available) and see viewers’ responses.  It includes:

Tye and Jean.  Tye is 19 with light brown long hair bleached blonde halfway down, with piercings and a punk look.  Mum Jean has shoulder-length dark hair and she has red-rimmed glasses.

Jean and her child Tye who gave an emotional interview about the forced adoption they suffered. They reunited after 17 years apart. Jean says: “Time was stolen from us.”  Tye says: “I could have had her growing up.  I could have had someone that fought for me relentlessly. And I didn’t get that.  And I should have.”  You can watch their full interview here.

The other person to be interviewed by 5 News was “Anna”, a mother with a moderate learning disability, who spoke about the heartbreak and enduring trauma of having three children forcibly adopted, including a baby of nine months old.

For national TV news to focus on discrimination against disabled mothers is a big breakthrough for women’s disability rights and for all mothers up against social services and the family courts, especially those of us who are single, of colour, working class. 5 News has around a quarter of a million viewers, on Twitter they had 109,400 views of their tweet and 20,700 views of their video, and more on Facebook.

After the broadcast, we had a flurry of calls and messages from disabled mothers, and grandmothers supporting disabled mothers, including:

“I am a mum, my children were taken from me. I have a learning disability they used that against me, and mental health. I too was looked after by the system, the same system that failed me – they didn’t provide me clothes from age of 12-16. Disgusting social services should be ashamed of themselves.”

“Keep up your amazing work. Family court and all those involved needs to be highlighted. It is truly scandalous.”

A deaf woman is making the BSL sign for discrimination: a person represented by upright finger is pushed down by the other hand.
Photo: Deaf mum makes the sign for discrimination.

“Thank you for information. Exactly same myself. Deaf. They took my children away on 2003 by social workers.  Hope social worker stop take disability parent their children away.”

A mother in our campaign group said:

“Well done to you all & unrelenting efforts to eradicate these rampant discriminations, profound pains by Social Services Department, and unacceptable secret Family Court. You gave us voice & hope…  Keep up good work !!! B ?

We are looking at the 5 News research in detail. We are pressing Ealing Council and other councils across London to provide figures on how many disabled mothers are getting support, or are instead put under “child protection” measures, leading to child removal.  Many told us they don’t keep that information – but they have answered the 5 News questions.

Central Family Court sign with the lion and unicorn drawing with crown in the middle.

We must also claim another victory for mothers and children:

13 days after the successful airing of the Channel 5 News feature, Sir Andrew McFarlane, president of the family court, gave a speech about parents with learning difficulties. He praised the use of “intermediaries” to assist those of us with disabilities, and wondered if all intermediaries are of high quality – something the family courts should ensure. Many disabled mothers are denied this support, and this violation of our rights, as we highlighted with 5 News, is hidden because the family courts are closed to the public. 

McFarlane stressed the need for Section 20 (s20) arrangements to be truly voluntary, to ensure parents understand that we can take our child back at any time. We all know that s20 is much abused by social services who refuse us the right to have our children returned to us.

We also notice that in recent judgements, all of a sudden, some courts seem to be remembering support that has existed for 30 years but was denied to disabled mothers.

McFarlane’s public speech can now be quoted by disabled mothers to demand a fairer hearing.  Please see here.

Hands holding the Care Act booklet.  Drawing of a wheelchair user mum of colour, she is looking forward and her child stands by her side leaning into her shoulder.

Disabled mothers and grandmothers looking after children are also coming to WinVisible about our Care Act rights – support we are legally entitled to. Councils should support us caring for our children.  Together we are successfully resisting homecare charges & debts, cuts in hours and pressure to put very young children in nursery.

The 5 News report got into the press too:

Nicole and her daughter are Afro-Caribbean.  Her daughter is perched on the arm of Nicole's wheelchair, Nicole has her arm around her, both are smiling.

We have also been campaigning against forced prepayment meters which are discriminatory and rip us off by charging us more. We’ve now won a ban on forced prepay meter installations and review of those affected!  

Nicole Als, a disabled mother in our group, spoke to the Camden New Journal about having to deal with fuel poverty and prepayment meters.  Read more here

Contact us to get involved:

  • Share your struggles and experiences
  • Find out more about campaign meetings, ways you can help and spread the word
  • Take part with us in our monthly picket of the Family Court, in person and Twitter storm at the same time @NotSeparation @WinVisibleWomen 

When: 12.30-1.30pm, first Wednesday every month.   Wednesday 1 March, Wednesday 5 April and so on.

Where: First Avenue House, 42-49 High Holborn, London WC1V 6NP and on Twitter.

Email us: mumsrights@winvisible.org

Twitter @WinVisibleWomen

Blog page: https://winvisible.org/disabled-mothers-rights-campaign/

Tel:   0207 482 2496 We’re based at Crossroads Women’s Centre.

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