MumsnetGuestPosts (MNHQ) Fri 27-Jun-14 10:56:46

Guest post: Camila Batmanghelidjh - 'Our child protection system is failing'

This week, a Centre for Social Justice report has declared that child protection services are 'in crisis'. Here, Camila Batmanghelidjh - whose charity Kids Company are currently running the See the Child campaign - explains how children are falling through the cracks, and argues that too often, society blames the child and parents as a way of ignoring systemic failings.

Camila Batmanghelidjh

Founder of Kids Company

Posted on: Fri 27-Jun-14 10:56:46


Lead photo

'There are over a million children just surviving their childhood'

Steven is seven years old. He has been excluded permanently from his school for violent behaviour. The reports about him are full of descriptions of how badly behaved he is. Eventually, the local authority, having been unable to find a school that would accept him, sent Steven to Kids Company for education. We were the first people to visit his home. Steven’s bed was a urine stained mattress on the floor; there was no food in the house, which explained why he always looked gaunt, and regularly stole food. His clothes were unwashed, giving other children an excuse to call him ‘Stinky’.

When we investigated further, we found another toddler in this house who exhibited savage behaviours. Further persistence brought us to the reason why both these children were so disturbed: the mother’s partner had changed his name. He is a known paedophile, and it is likely that he is sexually abusing these children. Kids Company is pushing for the social work department to carry out formal investigations.

This seven-year-old’s contact with professional agencies - his school, health visitor, GP, clinical psychologist - is illustrative of the challenges we face in our attitude to children who exhibit disturbances. If Steven had been crying, or cutting himself, people would have wondered why he was so upset, and maybe they would have felt more compassionate towards him. But chronically maltreated children learn very early on to deny themselves tender feelings - because there is nothing more humiliating that expressing pain and not being soothed for it or protected. So Steven’s second skin, the layer that keeps him safe, is his violence. By manifesting the hate he feels, he tries to communicate the intensity of the violations he is enduring, but he also gets to keep grown-ups at a distance in an attempt to self-preserve. How is Steven supposed to see the world around him as compassionate and filled with goodwill, when his mother, and the person who is supposed to be like a father to him, are the very people who violate you?

When a seven-year-old is perceived as a predator - someone who needs to be banned and excluded from places - adults tend to put a block on their own curiosity. They stop asking: what happened to this child to make him so violent? Was permanent school exclusion the best decision for him? And why didn't anyone do a home visit?

When a seven-year-old is perceived as a predator - someone who needs to be banned and excluded from places - adults tend to put a block on their own curiosity. They stop asking: what happened to this child to make him so violent? Was permanent school exclusion the best decision for him? And why didn't anyone do a home visit? Just walking into a child’s room will give you a sense of whether they are being cherished or neglected. It’s in the detail: the cleanliness of the bedsheets, the order in the wardrobe, the stench in the carpet.

There are over a million children just surviving their childhood. The Centre for Social Justice calls them the 'lone children'. They are not in local authority care, nor are they on a child protection register. Therefore, it’s assumed that they are living with a functioning parent(s). The NSPCC has to speculate, because neither local authorities nor central government want to capture the real numbers of children who are being maltreated. The state claims it has no money to meet their needs. As a result, 920,000 to 3.5 million children are thought to be living with alcoholic parents. 50,000 to 2 million children struggle with their parents’ mental health difficulties. Just under 1.8 million children survive domestic violence, and 1 in 20 children are being sexually abused. The figures for child mental health difficulties have not been updated for 10 years, but the numbers of parking meters have. Ofsted declares 1 in 7 social work departments as not fit for purpose; if 1 in 7 trains crashed, you’d suspect there was a problem with the train company, wouldn't you? And yet we don’t have the conversation about systemic failures which leave our vulnerable children without appropriate help; instead, we put the blame on the child, the parent or the individual social worker. In demonising them instead of the system, we reassure ourselves that the failing was an exception.

The current system has not changed since the Victorian times. More children are being maltreated than people dying of cancer. It’s just that kids don’t vote, so the political system doesn't prioritise them. In denying devastated kids the care they deserve, we make ourselves a sick society. And, eventually, well cared-for children will also pay the price, because there won’t be safety in their schools, on the bus, or in the streets, as children who have been perversely treated take revenge.

So, that’s why we've started our ‘See the Child, Change the System’ campaign. We want to gather the best minds, across a range of disciplines, to collectively come up with a new design for social services and child mental health. Maybe it should be called the Department of Child and Family Resilience, where social care and psychiatric workers collaborate to strengthen vulnerable families and nurture their abilities? And maybe, if we were more resourceful, the money that is being spent could reach more kids.

If your child was being harmed, you would want someone to protest and protect. It’s just that for a lot of children, there isn't a grown up in their lives who notices their pain. On their behalf, we want you to help us change the system so that it can give them the care children deserve. Please watch this video and sign our petition for change, it’s less than two minutes of your time, but it could help you change a child’s life.

By Camila Batmanghelidjh

Twitter: @seethechild

Parietal Fri 27-Jun-14 11:08:18

strongly support this and have signed.

Xcountry Fri 27-Jun-14 12:00:32

This is not 'new' its been failing for years, I'm hurtling towards 30, I was removed from my parents care at 4 months old and it was failing then. Not enough staff, not enough finances, not enough support and not enough powers.

Stickaflakeinit Fri 27-Jun-14 12:16:59

Agree with everything Camilla has said (huge respect for Kids Co as an organization that champions the rights of the child) but the real problem we need to address is a chronic underfunding of the services that protect the child.

I work with young people in need and work closely with social workers - they are overstretched, have too many children on their caseloads and a worrying number of SWs in my LA are off sick with stress or are leaving the profession.

In my area the gov't cuts have hit hard and affect every area of child protection, safeguarding and early intervention. Without the money, the best minds in the world cant solve this issue and an expensive restructuring of childrens services alone is not enough to improve outcomes for our most vulnerable children and young people.

DwellsUndertheSink Fri 27-Jun-14 12:22:29

Im a foster carer, so this campaign looks fantastic.

I could weep at times at how much the "human rights" of negligent, abusive parents come before the welfare of the children. Yes, if parents are able to turn their lives around, they should keep their kids. But how many chances and how many months and years are children left in their awful environments? WHile justice supports "innocent until proven guilty" I wonder if its not time to remove children far earlier until the parents have proven themselves capable of being parents - then give them time and resources to make changes without using the kids as guinea pigs and leaving them in that environment.

ANd I want to hold those precious adoptive parents in mind, who go through a brutal and intrusive process to become parents - and then its no wonder some feel they can only cope with children with minimal issues, as their tender hearts have already been put through the wringer. Id like to see a lot more support and compassion post adoption, so these blooming wonderful champions can get priority with access to CAMHS and other support services throughout the childhood and adolescence of their children.

ANd Id like to stop seeing the press promoting the "evil social workers stole my kids" complete with sad faces. The local authorities can never comment, so its always one sided. This is not holding the Social workers to account, it just creates a climate of fear around them.

(climbs off soap box...)

unrealhousewife Fri 27-Jun-14 12:23:36

Apart from being let down by all the services run by adults, they are also let down by their peers, who quickly pick up on a needy child and exclude them or abuse them. This should be challenged more in schools through better structures to encourage ongoing social responsibility. The annual drugs and gangs talk from police isn't nearly enough. Children are capable of taking care of each other too.

Thank you for all the amazing work that you are doing. thanks

It's shameful that people outside the system are the only ones that can actually shake it up.

TheHoneyBadger Fri 27-Jun-14 12:25:53

whenever i mention the number of seriously disturbed young people and how dangerous they are for other children in the secondary schools i've worked in people accuse me of high drama and exaggerating. it's like people think the future murderers, wife beaters, rapists, psychopathically disordered etc etc of the future just appear fully formed at 18 or so. they don't. comprehensive education means everyone and with the pressure on to keep kids in school no matter what and the lack of provision for children's mental health and specialist help when there are clear problems some classes i've taught have seen me feeling more like i was back working in a pscyh hospital secure unit (minus the security) rather than in a school.

inclusion only works if needs are being met and problems openly addressed and dealt with and child protection (of ALL children shoved in that environment on a daily basis) taken seriously.

i totally agree that this is about the protection of ALL children, not just those who are being abused or exhibiting the violent behaviour. parents send their kids of to school with the reasonable expectation that they'll be safe, that the adults in contact with them will have been police checked and have been cleared on health grounds etc. they don't think about the fact that their child could be sat next to a child who has already sexually assaulted children, has already been diagnosed as a sociopath or has a very high potential for serious violence against others. for the sake of children who are suffering with mental health or psychological problems AND for the children we sandwich into overcrowded understaffed large schools with them on a daily basis we need to address the needs of these children and their families.

i've seen kids wandering around school causing hell for other kids who when i was working in a psychiatric unit for teenagers would have been on constant obs because of their potential to harm others. school can't be used as a 'make it all invisible' camp for societies problems - it's a bit of a time bomb and i'm surprised we haven't seen more violence and issues yet. a lot of it gets hidden though as schools keep it quiet and parents don't call the police when children are assaulted or sexually harassed for example.

sanfairyanne Fri 27-Jun-14 16:07:32

how awful that no govt agency had investigated further

BigfootFiles Fri 27-Jun-14 16:37:14

Why is Mumsnet not campaigning on this instead of PMQs?

HereIsMee Fri 27-Jun-14 17:29:26

I agree that children slip through the nets I think people are usually looking for the wrong things. I was missed, partly because the abuse was from early enough for me to develop coping mechanisms but also because I always lived in a clean house with working parents. The abuser didn't live with us.

As an adult I am stigmatised by my contact with the mental health system which wasn't helpful apart from during a crisis. But there was very little understanding as I first disclosed it outside my family as an adult and a parent. I was treated like a traitor to my family by others of my ethnic group and repeatedly made to feel I had to achieve more than parents who didn't have my background. Even worse raising my child was like jumping hurdles. I'm very grateful for the help we recieved from various charities. However saddened how little help there is trying to be heard or helped at the time of need and how easy it is to be victimised for speaking publicly about it. I think this as an adult so very worrying for children.

It's an awful feeling when the world turns there back on you because even if you don't outwardly show destructive or aggressive behaviour and work hard to make your life worthwhile, you have to make good memories and because they don't always exist. When you make your own children and family you have to work that much harder to be normal.

unrealhousewife Fri 27-Jun-14 17:40:56

I actually think schools could be the ideal place to provide effective help for children with these issues if the resources are there. Good behaviour support team is essential. It is quite possible for specialists to provide the help needed to staff and children in a school setting. As Honeybadger says we can't make schools a convenient place to hide these children which all too often it is. It can however with the right resources be a sanctuary and give them a sense of belonging and normality. Segregating these children will only make their problems worse.

It shouldn't be left up to random charities to pick up out of school hours. Pastoral care in schools should be a much higher priority.

HereIsMee Fri 27-Jun-14 18:31:06

Unreal, that's true except where school is where the abuse takes place. or one of the places as there can be more than one abuser. Also it doesn't suit all children. Personally I found two of my schools were brilliant safe havens but I grew up to be a home educating parent.

Notmaisieinmorningside Fri 27-Jun-14 19:14:13


thornrose Fri 27-Jun-14 19:34:39

I volunteered with Kids Company many years ago and I've never forgotten the experience. Camila is a truly amazing woman and Kids Company a real life line for young people.

How terrible that in this day and age so many children are not being adequately protected, it breaks my heart.

A thousand times yes to this campaign.I set up a nurture class in our school, we helped children with complex and sometimes very disturbing behavior to integrate safely and generally successfully into a mainstream school. Good long term outcomes Beth behaviorally, emotionally and academically. We worked closely with parents, specialists and where necessary both chipdrens and adult social services.
But as of September our unit is closing, our school has become part of an academy trust and out little sanctuary is seen as an expensive embarrassment and they don't want to attract children like those we work with who often have complex, long term and expensive needs.
Working with these children needs to been seen as important and valuable and resources need to be spent early in life.I have loved every minute of the last few years nurturing children and camila is one of my personal heroes!

ghostisonthecanvas Fri 27-Jun-14 20:23:56

Fantastic campaign. I get the rage regularly when parents human rights are prioritised over their birth children. My beautiful daughter has had the chance of being a mother taken from her because her mother drank during pregnancy. My DD will never manage childcare, she forgets things etc. Her birth mother continued to have children. Each child more damaged than the last. It reminds me of fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. If you abuse a child in the womb why the hell are you allowed to keep doing it?The system is flawed, definitely. It is too soft on reoffenders. Why do adoptive parents have to prove they will be good parents when anyone who can give birth, can? Ifyswim. It is such a huge problem and that is the families social services know about. I just feel so bad for the kids who fall through the cracks. So sad. I cannot understand how any adult dealing with an angry child in nursery, school etc doesn't deals with parents? If a child is stale and smelly, something is wrong at home. I know these days extra training is being done with staff to spot signs, a small step in the right direction.

TheHoneyBadger Fri 27-Jun-14 20:46:10

err really don't think this campaign is for forced sterilisation.

stooshe Fri 27-Jun-14 20:47:25

I wonder what Ms Camila said about black mothers is something that she would say about white mothers or any other? I want to get behind her, but I can't. Her stereotyping is heinous very "mansplaining" , "groupiefied" and a great example of misogynoir.
Still, I suppose we should take the help where we find it, no matter the inner motivations of those giving it (I always question supposed motives when charitable people show their arse).

TheHoneyBadger Fri 27-Jun-14 20:55:00

what did she say stooshe?

Stars66 Fri 27-Jun-14 21:52:15

Am a SW and can't say more than there just are not enough resources.

MerryMarigold Fri 27-Jun-14 22:09:54

!:20 children being sexually abused is hideous. I have twins in separate classes in Reception, and spend a lot of time in their classes. I know those 60 kids fairly well. It appalls me that potentially 3 of them could be being sexually abused.

Spero Fri 27-Jun-14 22:26:01

Sorry stooshe, I don't know what in particular you are referring to but I am very surprised that you take the view that CB is anything other than utterly genuine and utterly committed to her cause. I have been following her work for years, she started out under railway arches near Brixton so I am guessing that most of her initial work will have been done with black children. Maybe that explains comments she makes about the black community - but I don't know what you are particularly referring to. There was certainly nothing in the blog to attract any kind of criticism, as far as I can see.

I don't think she is condescending or 'mansplaining' (whatever on earth you mean by that) maybe she has just had to be repeating the same message over and over again.

She puts her money where her mouth is, works very long hours fund raising and has dedicated her life to making things better for abused and neglected children.

the system is crumbling, she is right about that.

I hope that everyone who reads this will sign her petition.

Signed the petition. Should be unbelievable that no-one bothered to visit the home of a child in the circumstances Camilla described - but sadly I can believe it.

Lottapianos Fri 27-Jun-14 22:34:48

Huge respect for Camila. I agree with other posters that far too much energy goes into keeping parents sweet and too much wasted energy (in some cases) on keeping children at home with shockingly abusive parents. Also agree that there are nowhere near enough resources - the system is so overwhelmed

Scousadelic Fri 27-Jun-14 23:56:21

Why is Mumsnet not campaigning on this instead of PMQs? This, absolutely. Who cares if MPs act like asses? Saving children is more important

The problem we have now is people who were poorly parented by irresponsible parents being bad and irresponsible parents to their own children and it seems that the more the state tries to support them, the less responsibility they take

thornrose Sat 28-Jun-14 00:13:26

I am intrigued by Stooshe's comments, could you expand? The vast majority of children Kids company help are from the black community.

TheHoneyBadger Sat 28-Jun-14 09:01:04

the mpqs campaign is just helping them anyway - why give assholes tips on how to not let the world they're assholes?? better its out in the open i'd say.

Eveningsaregettingshorter Sat 28-Jun-14 12:44:00

I suspect Stooshe is referring to the comments made in 2006 by this lady regarding black mothers being partially responsible for family breakdown. This was reported on BBC news

TheHoneyBadger Sat 28-Jun-14 13:00:06

found it here

she manages to insult women, black women and single mothers. pretty impressive.

TheHoneyBadger Sat 28-Jun-14 13:03:04

i'm not even black and i'm massively offended by her statements there. she manages to blame women for men's behaviour, imply single parent households must be shite due to lack of male role models (presumably ss female couples are shit too) and generalise hideously about a group based on their ethnicity. nice one.

MerryMarigold Sat 28-Jun-14 14:33:08

To be fair, I think there's a couple of other people quoted there in that article.

TheHoneyBadger Sat 28-Jun-14 15:32:15

yes, i was purely looking at the words that came out of her mouth - plenty of her own words there. what a shame she spouted off like that against a group who already face more than enough stigma and barriers.

Spero Sat 28-Jun-14 15:35:48

There are at least four people quoted in that article, one of whom who identifies as a black woman.

If you don't think lack of male role models has caused enormous problems in our society, then I don't know where you live, somewhere lovely presumably. And I am a single parent, if you would like to have a of at me too.

All that this woman has done and continues to do for children and you are all over some article from 2006 where she is briefly quoted along with others.

Shame on you.

Spero Sat 28-Jun-14 15:46:20

I am angry now.

This is a thread about the child protection system. Is it failing? Yes.
Are children neglected, abused and suffering enormous harm. Yes.

Is anyone doing anything about it? CB is trying to.

If you want to start a thread about how she is in fact a massive misogynistic racist whose just been in deep cover as a faux concerned social activist for 20 years, could you go and do that and stop crapping all over this thread?

Signed. Camilla is fantastic

alsojp1 Sat 28-Jun-14 18:04:49

My heart sinks when I see these poor impoverished children come into my Youth Courts followed sometimes by feckless single mothers. Poor little souls have never stood a chance from the day they were born..having said that very often the children often appear with no loving parent good or bad. It seems no one has ever cared enough to even talk to them never mind cherish them. We all fail these children, we need to turn to the responsible agencies en masse and demand change, earlier intervention,better and more fostering and care and for us as a society to show we care about 'our' children.
I am sick of hearing 'lessons have been learned' 'never again' and nothing changes! No one ever takes responsibility. I remember Maria Cauldwell most of you will not have been born then ..and the same old platitudes are rolled out year after year. As if that makes it all OK. It doesn't.
Thank God for Camila but she is only in London ..these children are everywhere, in every town and village, hidden and I fear ignored because people are too afraid to interfere.
We need many more people like Camila.

Greenrememberedhills Sat 28-Jun-14 18:39:01

Echo that this should be the mn campaign .

CB does stunning work. At one point you could support them by dying their online shop for cards etc.

theuncivilservant79 Sat 28-Jun-14 20:44:50

I imagine cb statements in 2006 are based on local evidence and or families she's worked with. She made an observation that may be true in specific demographics. She's invoking conversations about why young black males are so over represented in the criminal justice system. Those conversations are uncomfortable.

I love cb her work is amazing I wish she could run childrens services in the uk

Greenrememberedhills Sat 28-Jun-14 22:07:13

By buying from!

bsmirched Sat 28-Jun-14 22:17:17

We in primary schools are beating our heads against a brick wall, trying to get SWs to act in cases of obvious neglect. One family, for example were previously on the CP register but 'proved' they could make the necessary changes at home - for as long as it took to get SS off their backs. Things are back to virtually square one now but we cannot get SS interested. As for CAMHS - we've had children waiting over 2 years to be seen. Our local office has only 2 staff.

weatherall Sat 28-Jun-14 22:23:23

Looking to social work departments to 'fix' problem families is like looking to oncologists to 'fix' smoking related lung cancer.

Prevention is the key.

unrealhousewife Sun 29-Jun-14 00:55:19

Bsmirched can you write to the lg ombudsman?

TheHoneyBadger Sun 29-Jun-14 08:14:59

bsmirched it's awful with the older kids too. if they haven't been interested in intervening when they were little and helpless they certainly don't care once they're bigger and have lost any cute factor they might have had.

the worst age group i've worked with are those that are 16-18. ss do a merry dance of avoiding them and ignoring phonecalls and appeals for help as do camhs - it has often seemed an utterly deliberate ploy knowing that once they turn 18 they're someone else's problem.

i've supported kids who are living in terrible situations who are tecnically old enough to move out but due to their own mental health problems or learning difficulties haven't got the where-with-all to do so and to access services and support independently. ss is not interested, nor camhs and the thought of these kids landing at 18 without any support having been given to prepare them for it is awful.

i suppose also that they are likely to be the next generation of parents unable to provide safety and sanity for their children.

TheHoneyBadger Sun 29-Jun-14 08:18:01

not because they are, as someone upthread said, 'feckless single mums' but because they too are products of neglect or abuse and institutional disregard. the children people are ready to feel sympathy for become the adults reproducing their problems because there was no intervention or help so they're just muddling onwards.

Mitzi50 Sun 29-Jun-14 09:36:41

bsmirched - my experience is exactly the same. It took me nearly a year to get SW to act regarding a child who I believed was being sexually abused. Sadly I was correct and the child was removed from the home.

Spero Sun 29-Jun-14 09:44:32

This explains my utter frustration over the years with those who keep banging on that SW are paid bonuses to 'snatch' children from loving homes. My most frequent complaint in care proceedings is that local authorities have waited far, far too long to intervene and remove children, leaving them suffering for years.

But how is that anyone's 'fault' when individual SW have horrific case loads and can barely keep on top of the emergency situations?

To turn this ship around - if indeed it can be - is going to require a massive shift on so many levels. Blaming 'feckless' people is not the answer BUT we do need to have the conversations that are uncomfortable, including why are young black men are so disproportionately perpetrators and victims of violent crime. I think various commentators have tried to point out that there are very many influences operating in society which have had serious negative impact on family structures and on black families in particular.

I am sure that individual failings and weaknesses have played a role - how could they not, we all have them - but these pale into insignificance against inequalities created and maintained by the state, whether this happened consciously or as a result of the law of unintended consequences.

if any time anyone tries to have these conversations they are just shot down as racist or liberal 'do gooders' (as is what happens to me whenever I attempt to discuss these issues on any thread it seems, often I appear to be accused of being both at the same time) then no wonder nothing will ever change.

TheHoneyBadger Sun 29-Jun-14 09:59:37

in my mind, though personally i won't be part of it as i've stopped teaching and stopped sending my son to school, if schools are meant to be meaningfully inclusive and to do deal with the scope of social, psychological and welfare issues they're being expected to, then you have to have counsellors, social workers, nurses etc IN schools. the massive red tape referrals, waiting lists, hoops to jump through etc need to be removed and schools need specialists on site.

you also need to start doing proper risk assessments on children with behavioural issues (obviously starting with checking the behaviour is not the acting out of abuse or neglect at home) and care plans. protecting that child and dealing with their issues in a joined up way whilst also protecting staff and other students from the behaviour.

we constantly get told schools need to x, y and z as well. oh here's another social problem, get schools to deal with it. well ok, but then locate the funding and the services and the personnel IN school so they can do that.

TheHoneyBadger Sun 29-Jun-14 10:05:46

on that note i find it utterly baffling that we leave people till crisis before putting them on a waiting list to get help. things like anxiety, mood management, self esteem, self care etc in the sort of basic CBT approach could easily be delivered to kids in groups.

my main specialisms in the working world have been in teaching and in mental health and the fact that the two can't join up to be used meaningfully baffles me. the first time i left teaching i had hopes of doing mental health education for kids in schools. i soon found out that even organisations like MIND in my area found that even when they offered to go in for free to do stuff schools weren't interested.

my ideal job would be based in schools delivering workshops on what is mental health, how do we deal with anxiety, what is self esteem, relaxation and breathing techniques etc to groups of say 12 kids. every child would come through my doors at least once a year in their secondary school life as part of their personal education and pastoral care. alongside that for those who need it further support would be available on site in terms of counselling, advice etc.

chances of me ever seeing that job advertised? hmm.

TheHoneyBadger Sun 29-Jun-14 10:10:15

this is what i'd do:

-what is mental health?
-dealing with anxiety and stress
-self esteem and self care
-relationships and boundaries

say you did those five as standard to all kids and had further programmes going on for those who need referring to them like dealing with trauma, grief and loss, dealing with anger, dealing with differences etc.

WHY aren't we doing this stuff?

dashoflime Sun 29-Jun-14 10:22:22

I don't think its fair to characterise the problems in child protection as some kind of bias towards birth parents.
The same failures that prevent children being removed quickly enough- also result in parents not being supported properly where problems could potentially be sorted out with help. Its part of the same problem.
A friend of mine has recently left social work.
She told me that where she worked there were two social work teams. One was focused on supporting parents to change. The other was aimed more towards assessment of whether to remove the child, report writing, then off to court.
When referrals came in, they were supposed to be assessed and, based on the seriousness of the situation, allocated to the "support" team or the "removal" team (They weren't actually called that. I don't know the proper terminology sorry)
In reality, because of the pressures on the system, cases were just sent to whichever team had most capacity.
If a family got allocated to the "removal" team (which was where my firend worked) their experiance of social work would be someone visiting every so often, observing the situation and deciding whether it had reached the point where the children should be removed. Often the families would be crying out for practical help, asking my friend over and over. She couldn't provide it.
If it never reached the threshold for removal, the case would be closed with no real help given.
If it did- then my friend would effectively have been standing by, perhaps for some period of time, doing nothing, just waiting for things to inevitably get worse, then writing the report for court. Yet from the outside, because there was a long social services involvement, it would look as though the parents had been given "chance after chance." In fact they had been given no chances. Just set up to fail.
I have another friend, who's children were removed and her experiance was the same. The social services were an additional terrifying pressure, on top of the serious problems her family was facing. Eventually things fell apart under that pressure and the children were removed.

Spero Sun 29-Jun-14 10:59:08

Agree - there needs to be clear demarcation between a SW who is there to assess a family for support and a SW who is there to look for evidence of ill treatment to justify removal. I don't think one person can do both jobs AND retain the trust of the family without having lot of time devoted to building a relationship with family, and SW don't have that time.

Also agree that there needs to be more thinking about how to help people with mental health issues such as anxiety and depression but much of that is better directed to prevention rather than attempting cures or alleviation when people are stuck in horrible social situations which will only exacerbate existing feelings of alienation and hopelessness.

We are more like the US in terms of society structuring the perpetuation of inequalities, than other European countries, I would like us to be more European.

weatherall Sun 29-Jun-14 11:12:10

I think what the poster above is describing is the difference between child in need assessments and child protection.

Putting more money into social workers who just visit, monitor and write reports won't help anyone.

The money is needed is domestic abuse refuges, money for single parents (especially at the pint if leaving), counselling/ cbt/psychotherapy for everyone who presents at their gp with mental health problems, respite for all parents in need, universal childcare, equal pay, end to discrimination in employment, better support systems for new mums, educational opportunities for young mums, residential rehab for mums, an end to overcrowding, social housing for everyone who wants it, relationship education for teenagers, better contraception education,free map, abortion on demand, a therapeutic approach to substance abuse, ban alcohol advertising, minimum pricing, more public Heath campaigns, right to flexible working, higher minimum wage, going back to teaching parenting in schools- all very achievable.

TheHoneyBadger Sun 29-Jun-14 11:21:22

from what i've been told where/when they have tried to give funding for supporting families and families in need that money has just been swallowed into the child protection services because they're so overrun and when faced with spending money on a bit of childcare for a good but depressed and struggling mum who needs a bit of time or on an at risk child they have had to make the decision of emergency priority.

i don't know if that's national or a local issue but i remember that it was tried and the money just did not reach the people who it was intended for because greater needs swallowed it.

dashoflime Sun 29-Jun-14 11:33:49

"I think what the poster above is describing is the difference between child in need assessments and child protection."

Thank you, weatharall thats what it was.

The problem where my friend worked was that families that should have been referred to the child in need team ended up with child protection, simply because that was the team that happened to have a bit of spare capacity.

Some families that might have been helped were simply watched while the problems escallated and then the children removed. All very arbitary.

KneeQuestion Sun 29-Jun-14 13:38:39

Ms Batmanghelidjh told the MPs: "I actually think the [black] mothers are hugely responsible because they have created a culture where they can get rid of the adolescent boy

They can get rid of the male partner, they can survive on their own

What surprises me is that a person as intelligent as Ms Batmanghelidjh, is not aware of the historical founding of that 'culture'.

That began in slavery and the culture that developed from it, where afro caribbean women had to 'survive on their own' because families would be split [the men removed by slave owners].

Surely she is aware of this? in saying what she said, she served to promote racist/negative stereotypes, something that her charity were chastised for in an advertising campaign they ran back in 2009.

All that this woman has done and continues to do for children and you are all over some article from 2006 where she is briefly quoted along with others

Well, she said those words, they are a representation of what she thinks and must in some way influence how she interacts with women in the black community that she works in.

Rather than blaming those women and in doing so alienating sections of a community, it may be more helpful/productive for her to try to understand the background?

I agree that services for children are not adequate for all who need them, more funding and joined up services are needed.

I will sign the petition.

Spero Sun 29-Jun-14 14:12:22

I think she does understand the back ground. The fact that slavery and its aftermath was responsible for massive harm to the structure of black families, does not mean we are banned from having a conversation now about what is happening and about how we undo that harm.

No one is absolved from responsibility for looking at their own behaviour, even if there are powerful historical and cultural reasons why we have ended up where we are. We all have a role to play.

The reasons gangs are so powerful and problematic in the big cities is that they offer vulnerable and unloved children a sense of family that they are not getting from anyone else. Why is this happening?

Given that she does a lot of direct work with children from the black community, she is entitled to express a view about what she sees and experiences and it would be good if there could be some conversation about it, other than just lots of huffing and puffing about racism and unacceptable views. There are rather more obvious targets for that sort of anger, I would have thought.

TheHoneyBadger Sun 29-Jun-14 14:38:23

i think people are 'discussing'. you seem to be implying that anything other than agreeing with her and not finding her comments problematic is 'huffing and puffing about racism'.

blaming single mothers for the ills of society is hardly something new and radical that she is bravely stating. just the same old, same old of misogyny.

KneeQuestion Sun 29-Jun-14 14:42:25

The fact that slavery and its aftermath was responsible for massive harm to the structure of black families, does not mean we are banned from having a conversation now about what is happening and about how we undo that harm

I agree, but to blame single black mothers who are the product of that ideology, for the consequences of it is a step beyond and not at all helpful.

I think she does understand the back ground

Then she should acknowledge it vocally/in print before she goes ahead with statements such as the one quoted from the 2006 article.

KneeQuestion Sun 29-Jun-14 14:43:09

YY TheHoneyBadger

TheHoneyBadger Sun 29-Jun-14 14:56:23

and it's been proven over and over and over if you want to help children, help women. making women's lives more difficult by propagating misogyny and stigma is counter productive at the least.

TheHoneyBadger Sun 29-Jun-14 14:59:04

and to be one of the very, very few female minority faces in the white male establishment spotlight and use it to slag off your sisters is just.... insert your own word/facial expression/feeling.

Specialcircumstances, how dreadful that the academy chain is shutting down a lifeline for vulnerable traumatised children. That's wicked.

Honeybadger yes yes yes to your idea of educating children about

-what is mental health?
-dealing with anxiety and stress
-self esteem and self care
-relationships and boundaries
and everything around that that you describe.

I was shocked by CB-J's comments to the select committee but given she's done far more for troubled children than I ever have, and has oodles more experience, I'm not hugely in a position to criticise.

TheHoneyBadger Sun 29-Jun-14 16:39:50

where are the vast majority of young people based? in school. where is camhs or social services based? err somewhere over there somewhere ivory towered behind referral procedures and waiting lists. it

edam i just think it's comparable to providing vaccines. we have mental health epidemics and clear, common problems occurring with regard to coping with modern life - so focus on equipping people with the skills and knowledge that may help them avoid or better cope with mental health problems.

seems utterly ridiculous that still, even today, there are people who don't know what is happening and think they're having a heart attack when they have a panic attack for the first time.

wordsmithsforever Mon 30-Jun-14 19:48:14

TheHoneyBadger: YY to your 5-point kids' course!! Please can't you write it and publish it! I'm sure we'll all buy it as an e-book for our DC but I would love to see it in all schools. I home ed and don't live in the UK - but in a much poorer country with so many children in such difficult circumstances, often being brought up by older siblings or grandparents. It would be such a gift to have your course in all schools everywhere.

TheHoneyBadger Tue 01-Jul-14 09:52:41

there is zero interest wordsmith. they rave about the numbers of hours lost to work and industry through mental illness etc but never seem to want to do anything to address it. cbt always seems to be to be more of a preventative than a cure ideally and knowing how to live a healthy life and what sort of balances and ways of tackling stress etc can help prevent becoming ill and understanding the patterns between what we think and do and health and wellbeing seems like pretty vital stuff to me.

i also think it is the place where disclosures would happen safely or each child would know who they could go and see who wouldn't judge or dismiss them if they had a problem they needed to discuss.

i'd never thought of writing it. it's worth pondering but i think really it needs delivering and needs to be done in groups because of the impact on how people treat each other and see each other ideally.

bronya Tue 01-Jul-14 09:58:16

It is an issue of resources, and of people not wanting to know. When you have children in your class who are obviously high on something at 9am and 10 years old; when they don't want to go home and panic before the holidays; when they hover at the end of lunchtime to eat any scraps left; when they tell you their bed broke and they are sleeping on the floor; when their behaviour is violent and disturbed and their sibling is withdrawn and overly compliant... You can report it all but no one really seems to care. So you do your best to bring them extra food, to let them do jobs so they feel important and valued, to ask how they are and show that you think their feelings matter. But then they go to Secondary school and get lost in the mass of children, lose their dreams, get excluded. Then they steal for food, and drugs to make themselves feel good, so society condemns them too.

unrealhousewife Tue 01-Jul-14 10:02:58

Bronya yours is exactly the fatalistic attitude that has to stop.

We have a civic duty to force those responsible, to care. It's not good enough to assume that because SS, the parents don't care then that's OK.

bronya Tue 01-Jul-14 10:42:51

So what do you do when you have reported and reported and they do nothing? Other than do what you can yourself, which is mostly food, and emotional support. As a teacher all I could do was tell my head. She would tell SS who did nothing. So she arranged for free snack for some children, I ran nurture groups, the cook kept the leftovers for them. I would mend clothes in my lunch hour, give them a hair brush to keep in school when other children teased them about their hair. I bought P.E. kit for them to use, and washed it. I glued their soles back on their shoes and we found spare uniform in lost property (that had been there years) when theirs was outgrown or too threadbare to mend.

TheHoneyBadger Tue 01-Jul-14 10:44:07

bronya yep - and secondary school felt like a holding cell for those kids to me - until prison picks them up in adulthood.

i don't think it's an attitude bronya is displaying - she's merely reporting the reality of how it is and how can you can go to the child protection officer over and over and just be told, yes we know, yes ss is aware, yes that is the situation at home. it's soul destroying.

Spero Thu 03-Jul-14 08:42:52

Bronya doesn't have a fatalistic attitude, that is a really unfair comment.

She is doing what she can in the face of apparent indifference from the child protection professionals. Maybe they are massively overworked or maybe they are just burnt out and can't/don't care any more.

I don't know. What I do know is that there is a massive crisis going on and nobody seems to care, this thread attracts only a few posters and some of them think it more important to deconstruct a some comments made in 2006 - I have no idea what else she said, what other nuance she offered to the debate because it may not have been reported.

I think a refusal to debate honestly the damage done to our children and society by the growing numbers of single mothers who live in poverty is part of the problem. It is not misogyny to recognise that trying to raise children in poverty, with lack of support from other adults is a problem.

90% of single mothers live in poverty. I am not one of them. But I have a glimpse into how difficult my life would be if I didn't have money to throw at various problems.

So I hope you will understand and excuse my frustration when the debate yet again seems in danger of veering off into deconstructing what someone else reported that someone else said without looking at what that person is DOING and trying to encourage others to do.

TheHoneyBadger Thu 03-Jul-14 10:59:13

spero your points would hold so much more validity if you didn't keep having to have the single mother digs. child abuse is not limited to single parents and poverty and child abuse are two very, very different things. conflating single mothers, poverty and child abuse together is offensive and just not accurate. it doesn't surprise me you can see no problem with someone making racist, stereotype building comments about black mothers when you're quite happy to do the same for single mothers.

TheHoneyBadger Thu 03-Jul-14 11:02:35

poverty is a problem for single parents (and many other families too) but that is something separate to child abuse ffs.

money or the presence of a partner would not make an abusive person non abusive. poverty and singleness would not make a loving parent into an abusive parent.

sure campaign and care about the financial barriers single parents face and sure campaign about child abuse and institutional failure to safeguard children but don't conflate the two.

TheHoneyBadger Thu 03-Jul-14 11:04:09

oh and just because you can't imagine coping without money to throw at things doesn't mean that millions of women across this country are doing a great job of looking after their children and being loving parents without wads of cash.

unrealhousewife Thu 03-Jul-14 11:11:41

Bronya perhaps it was your head that had the fatalistic attitude then, not you. It probably was an issue of poverty but it might have been a result of alcohol or drug abuse. Did anyone find out?

There are many other routes to getting things done, one of which is formal complaints to the Directors, the local government ombudsman, the police. The point is it's just not OK for us as a society to accept this second rate performance of local social services. We have regulators and legal systems to address SS failures.

The only people who are able to force changes are those within the system, it certainly isn't the children themselves and if we can't trust our social services we as responsible adults need to address that.

KneeQuestion Thu 03-Jul-14 11:39:31

I think a refusal to debate honestly the damage done to our children and society by the growing numbers of single mothers who live in poverty is part of the problem. It is not misogyny to recognise that trying to raise children in poverty, with lack of support from other adults is a problem

Damage done by those single mothers?

Why do people and society blame the parent that is doing the parenting?

How about debate the damage done by the fathers that walk away [and those that are complicit in them doing so], without placing blame at the door of the mothers who stuck around?

It is misogynistic to blame the fuck ups of men on women.

90% of single mothers live in poverty. I am not one of them. But I have a glimpse into how difficult my life would be if I didn't have money to throw at various problems

I think your 90% figure is incorrect. Im sure I remember seeing 43% on the Gingerbread website.

I am a single parent and while that and financial issues do make some things much harder, it doesn't mean that I am a bad parent, or that my children are automatically delinquent.

So I hope you will understand and excuse my frustration when the debate yet again seems in danger of veering off into deconstructing what someone else reported that someone else said without looking at what that person is DOING and trying to encourage others to do

The responses to what she said in 2006 are relevant though.

Whatever good she is doing, if that statement and her attitude that inspired it are hindering progress, then it is something that needs challenging.

When working with children, parental engagement makes a difference to outcomes, alienation also makes a difference, just not a positive one.

Please note that I said I would sign the petition.

TheHoneyBadger Thu 03-Jul-14 12:32:57

i haven't managed to shake off just how offensive i find spero's comments.

i'm baffled by how anyone could not see just how counterproductive scapegoating already stigmatised groups of women is when it comes to child protection and how utterly dangerous it is when we need people to know that child abuse can be occurring in any home, whatever class, marital constitution, race, religion, etc. child abuse is knows no boundaries and lovely middle class, beautifully decorated houses with stepford like appearances to the world can contain violence, sexual abuse and all manner of secrets.

stereotyping and conflating class/economics/singleness with abuse is so fucking dangerous.

unrealhousewife Thu 03-Jul-14 12:40:51

Spero said "...the growing number of children born to single mothers living in poverty"

I don't think she meant single mothers per se, just the fact that a lot of them end up in poverty.

Poverty often leads to the neglect described by Bronya - it really isn't forgivable to have this going on in the UK in 2014. As long as nobody is speaking up for children and protecting them from this poverty we area all as neglectful as each other imo, we are no better than that mother who can't or won't clothe her children properly.

Spero Thu 03-Jul-14 13:01:54

The fact that you find my statements of FACT offensive, indicates all that is wrong with the level of debate about these truly crucial matters.

90% of single mothers live in poverty. This is a sad fact.

Raising children in poverty often has negative implications for the development of these children, in every sphere of their development - social, educational, economical.

Another sad fact.

Why would I, a single mother, take misogynistic pot shots at other single mothers?

The point is that raising children without support and without money is hard. We need as a society, collectively, to be asking questions about what the fuck is going on in a developed society where so many children are neglected and abused.

But no, some people would rather dance about saying how 'offended' this makes them feel.

Well bully for you. I am 'offended' by how many children are abused and dying in this country and one of the few people actually getting off her backside and doing anything about it, is pilloried.

Spero Thu 03-Jul-14 13:06:01

Re statistics, I was debating this on another thread and found the 90% statistic there! I will have to google again to find my source.

If I am wrong about that, I am sorry.

But it doesn't detract from my simple point - too many children live in appalling circumstances. There is clearly a link between this and family breakdown.

The causes of family breakdown are many and varied. If anyone thinks I am blaming 'feckless single mothers' solely for this, your reading comprehension levels are shockingly bad and sorry, I can't help you with that.

KneeQuestion Thu 03-Jul-14 13:09:10

That wasn't what Spero said unrealhousewife.

the damage done to our children and society by the growing numbers of single mothers who live in poverty

The above could be open to interpretation, but in the context of the discussion about CB blaming single black mothers for being single mothers and why it is fine for that to be said, I think it is clear what she meant in the quote above.

As long as nobody is speaking up for children and protecting them from this poverty we area all as neglectful as each other imo, we are no better than that mother who can't or won't clothe her children properly

'won't' clothe children properly is rather different to 'can't' don't you think?

'no better than that mother who can't clothe her children'

I agree with you that 'we' everyone must speak up for those without a voice. But I feel it is important to make the distinction between those that are neglectful wilfully and those who do so unwillingly out of dire circumstance.

Once again, back to what I said about parental engagement and positive outcomes, judging/blaming mothers only serves to disengage and alienate.

Some while back, I have twice been in the position of my child not having adequate school uniform and one time shoes. At one school in an affluent area, with staff with little understanding of what it is like to really struggle living on benefits, I reported my child as absent due to illness for one day until I could get the money to pay for new school shoes. I knew I would be judged and certainly not helped.

In their present school [in a more economically diverse area] my son outgrew his school trousers and I was struggling, because they had a better understanding and had communicated that, I knew that I could speak to the school home support person and be helped without judgement. I was able to do so and everything carried on as normal without interruption.

As someone else said upthread, if you want to help children, help mothers.

Spero Thu 03-Jul-14 13:15:11

You can interpret my words for me all you like, I know who I am and what I mean. I do not stigmatise individuals or express prejudice towards any group.

I want to have proper debate, based on facts.

To that end, you were right about the gingerbread statistics

I don't know where I got my 90% figure from.

But it doesn't really matter as it seems that there is so much eagerness to characterise me as some Daily Mail reader.

I am frustrated because I work in child protection, I see this pretty close up and something needs to change drastically and soon.

So I am just grateful to anyone who signed the petition and I don't want to derail the thread any longer.

unrealhousewife Thu 03-Jul-14 13:16:15

I hate to say it but there is a culture in the teaching profession of blaming parents, throwing their hands up and saying 'well that's just the way it is'.

That has to stop. These services are supposed to work together now, lets see them hold each other to account proactively in order to prevent problems rather than do the usual finger-pointing after a tragedy. Presently they are all avoiding responsibility because it saves their departments money. 'Not my department' saves them money.

Baby Ps police file was sitting on an unmanned desk for weeks which is why his parents were never charged earlier. The NHS saw him several times and failed to diagnose his broken spine. Who got the blame? Good old social services with a witch-hunt style pyre burning of their director. Very little has changed. Child protection is a collective responsibility and should not be allowed to be influenced by financial and power structures.

What I'm saying is that schools are probably in the best position to speak out on those failing services and we know they care but they are going to have to get out of their comfort zone in order to do so.

What are you doing Spero, I'm interested.

KneeQuestion Thu 03-Jul-14 13:21:54

The point is that raising children without support and without money is hard. We need as a society, collectively, to be asking questions about what the fuck is going on in a developed society where so many children are neglected and abused


Two issues there.

Yes raising children without support/money is hard.

Children being neglected and abused does not necessarily go hand in hand with being a single parent who is struggling financially.

Such a lazy and dangerous assumption and yes, it is offensive and unhelpful.

Obviously neglect/abuse goes on in all family backgrounds, but there is always a massive focus on single parent families.

Poor outcomes and poverty are linked, but abuse? abuse is not necessarily so. That can be a stand alone issue regardless of socioeconomic factors.

If you really want to talk about this issue, choose your words/terminology carefully. You can make smug references to comprehension levels if you prefer, but if you wish to reach everyone, don't start off by alienating whole groups of people.

TheHoneyBadger Thu 03-Jul-14 13:24:09

spero are you talking about child abuse or are you talking about single mothers and poverty? because you're lumping them together in a way that seems to say being poor or the child of a single mother IS synonymous with being abused.

it is not a statement of fact that children are damaged by living with a lone parent or that 90% of lone parents are in poverty or that poverty is synonymous with child abuse. so no, i'm not offended by your statement of fact (or FACT as you prefer) because i see no facts in what you are saying. just aspersions.

TheHoneyBadger Thu 03-Jul-14 13:25:25

here's the common condition of child abuse - the child is in close vicinity to a child abuser.

not their economic state or whether their parents are married but their sheer and utter misfortune to live with a child abuser and to be failed by child protection services.

let's not muddy this eh?

TheHoneyBadger Thu 03-Jul-14 13:35:33

if you want a link between poverty and child abuse go for a realistic one that takes into account the actual causes and reproduction of child abuse re:

an adult who was themselves abused as a child and failed by child protection services is likely to have greater difficulties achieving financial stability and to have greater chances of going onto be an ineffective or abusive parent themselves.

the child in this case is not abused because the adult is poor or single but the adult is poor because of their abuse at the hands of their family of origin and through the care system that dumped them on the street at 18.

Spero Thu 03-Jul-14 15:35:06

I am sorry if I am appearing smug or alienating people, I don't want to do that.

But I am increasingly fed up of being jumped on and being told I am saying things I am not saying, particularly if it derails such am important debate.

Of course being poor does not automatically or necessarily mean you are a bad parent. But I would estimate 95% of my clients ARE poor. I cannot ignore the fact that their economic and aspiration all poverty makes them more likely to be struggling with child rearing and more likely to be attracting the attention of the state which would apparently have neither the time or the resources to offer any proper support.

Unrealhousewife, I am trying to raise awareness in what ever way I can and do the best job I can for my clients who almost always have no where to turn. I am one of the administrators of this site. We are trying to help and demystify the process for vulnerable parents and promote debate about what we need to do to make things better.

TheHoneyBadger Thu 03-Jul-14 15:40:33

you haven't addressed what i've said at all have you.

a correlation is not a cause and you are doing chicken and egg mislogic here.

people's issues that make them prone to neglecting/abusing their children may be the same issues that make them prone to povery rather than the poverty being the causal factor.

also people with money are better able to hide their problems/go under the radar than those who are poor and of course in front line services you are more likely to see those who are disadvantaged on multiple fronts including economically as their problems are so profound they will prevent them from working or restrict them to low paid work.

TheHoneyBadger Thu 03-Jul-14 15:49:53

and it really isn't derailing to point out misconceptions and stereotypes around child abuse. it can be life saving.

the kind of falsehoods being propagated within your posts can lead to assumptions that everything must be fine because mummy and daddy are together and the child is always clean and has nice shoes whilst a child is being hideously abused at home.

on the other hand they also mean that parents who are struggling financially to provide for their children's needs don't come forward for help because of these kind of attitudes and the fear they'll be seen as shit parents and judged rather than seen as purely having an economic problem they need assistance with.

lizfisherfrank Thu 17-Jul-14 14:51:26

Totally support this brilliant initiative. As a children's rights lawyer for many years, I saw many young people let down by the system. I agree with so many others, the social care system for children needs proper investment. Many children growing up in dysfunctional families become dysfunctional parents themselves. It's about educating to break the cycle. Also the answer is not always whipping children out of families and in to care as for many, experiences in the care system can be equally damaging. Will the Government ever properly fund children's services? Well it totally needs to but it probably won't. It's just not a vote winner is it.

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