Sunday, January 21, 2007

Saying Nice Things

This is going to hurt me more than it will hurt you.

But - I have to say something nice about Cllr Hemming.

He's been running a campaign to expose some of the injustices perpetrated on parents by misguided social workers and others in the name of child protection. While I accept that they have an appallingly difficult job to do and have to deal with situations that you or I might not be able to manage, sometimes their behaviour oversteps the boundaries of what is reasonable. While there is clearly a personal issue behind this, Cllr Hemming has picked up the wider issue as a genuine problem and is running a little campaign that typifies the work of a number of backbench MPs from all parties. Nice work, John.

I'd written all of the above before I saw the latest post on his blog, which is the fairly reprehensible statement that the increase in the number of white babies being taken into care is down to the fact that
this will help the government to hit their targets in increasing the percentage of children in care that are adopted
Hang on a sec. He is suggesting that social services departments are intentionally taking children into care to increase the pool of children that are more easily placed with adoptive families. 82% of children taken into care across the UK are white. Black and mixed race children are excessively represented in the numbers of looked after children (black and mixed race children make up 16% of children in care, but only 8% of all children). The figures I have suggest a 13% increase in the number of babies (under 1) being taken into care between 2001 and 2005, but don't forget that 40% of children taken into care are adolescents (10-15).

The government national target is to increase the numbers of those adopted from 2700 in 1999 by 50%. Figures for 2005, indicate that a 40% increase has been achieved nationally -an increase that could not be down to an increase in the number of white babies being taken into care and then given for adoption. In fact, the number of babies being adopted hasn't changed much in a decade. In 1996, 253 were adopted and in 2004, 252. Approximately 4/5% of adoptions overall involve babies. The big increase has been in toddlers - 1-4 years of age - which has seen an increase from 1598 in 1996 to 2606 in 2004. As it takes some time for adoption to be processed, it is perhaps rather likely that a baby could be removed from its family and then finally adopted as a toddler, but the increase in available babies cannot account for the total increase in toddler/pre-school adoption.

This is a hugely difficult area and one in which I don't claim any expertise, but that is all the more reason for people to try to have reasoned and evidenced debates. Frankly, to suggest that social workers are kidnapping children to boost their performance figures is both unpleasant and statistically unlikely. It may heat up the discussion, but it adds no light to the problems of troubled families and youngsters.

Stick to the genuine issues and avoid this kind of unsupported statement, Councillor.


john said...

Remember that I am aware of evidence covered by contempt of court rules.

john said...

Note also that 8 other MPs have signed the EDM expressing this view. I have not lobbied any other Hon Member. Note also Camilla Cavendish's article in early Dec.

john said...

Where you are right is that although the babies are taken into care it takes over 12 months for a forced adoption to go through. That means that they end up in the 1-4 figures.

The real test is to distinguish between forced adoptions and those with the consent of the birth family. Those figures are harder to come by.