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At what point will social services step in and help?

(18 Posts)
chim000 Tue 23-Jun-09 09:36:18

I've been dealing with SS lately as I've got a lot of concerns about my children when they are with my ex. There are quite a few concerns but my main concern is his drinking & cannibis use. I'd been thinking about contacting them for a while but then it was taken out of my hands as ds2 suffered quite a severe burn to his hand when he was with xp. xp didn't get any medical treatment for it and didn't tell me about it. I took ds2 to MIU and from there they referred him to SS. They did tell me about the referral which I understand is unusual. I told the nurse about all of my concerns and she passed these on to SS. She was worried that they were fixed on this burn and were not taking the other issues seriously. I then contacted them myself to see what they were planning on doing. I also found that they were only concerned with the burn and after an hour of me going on at them they still didn't seem to be concerned about the care in general.

I've been contacting them regularly to try and get them to realise just how much of an issue his drinking etc is. All they will say is get legal advice. Now I have done this, but really do not like my solicitor, and can't change unless I put a complaint in about her adn tbh I'm not sure if there is anything to complain about.

I spoke to them yesterday as I picked up hte boys on Sunday and he could barely speak he was so drunk. I have asked SS to help me out as I know he would listen more to them than to me or a solicitor, plus there is less chance of him becoming violent if SS deal with it. (They have said that they will step in if he becomes violent or abusive in any way in front of the children). However they kind of brushed off my request, didn't really give me a proper reason as to why they won't step in at this stage, but have basically said that if he is seen and arrested by the police while being drunk while the children are in his care, then the children will be taken from me for allowing him to still have contact. I spoke to my solicitor and in the end hung up on her before I got really angry. I've told him that he cannot have the boys unless he stops drinking and he has agreed to this, but I'm not entirely certain that he will stick to it.

So does it take someone being seriously hurt before they will step in becasue that is how it feels. Would it not be better to prevent something happenning?

Schoolgirl Tue 23-Jun-09 09:56:54

I really don't understand why you're still letting your ex have contact with the children if the problems are as bad as you say they are. If he's regularly using drugs and drunk while they're with him I would have thought you were well within your rights to with-hold contact until he provides reassurance or undergoes tests/attends counselling.

Has your solicitor/social worker not suggested this approach? not quite sure what you expect them to do tbh if you continue to let him see them under these circumstances.

chim000 Tue 23-Jun-09 10:17:50

This is the whole point. I don't want him seeing them under these circumstances. My solicitor will not listen to what I want to do and is the lariest cow I've ever been unfortunate enough to meet.

The counselling/tests approach has not been suggested at all. The only reason that I have continued to allow him to have the boys over the weekends is because of the hell that I went through 18 months ago. Just thinking about that I am standing here crying. I can't go through that again and I don't know what is better for the boys, to continue going as it is and for me to keep the peace or me to be so depressed and scared of him and that makes life at home hell for the boys too.

edam Tue 23-Jun-09 10:23:31

Chim, is the reason you are stuck with this crappy solicitor something to do with legal aid? If so am angry on your behalf.

Don't know if it would be any use talking to the Legal Complaints Service for some advice?

In the meantime, make a record of the conversation with SS about removing the children if dh is pissed. Time/date/name/what was said. Then guess you have to go back to useless one and give them a copy of these notes.

Say, SS have told me they will remove the children if ex is drunk while they are in his care, I HAVE to stop contact, you are my solicitor and should be working on my behalf, please tell me how to stop contact.

ChopsTheDuck Tue 23-Jun-09 10:25:17

It might be worth you contacting womans aid. They primarily work with victims of domestic abuse but can sometimes help in situations like this. It's worth a try, they would be able to tell you where you stand and have a bit of clout with ss on your behalf.

LadyOfWaffle Tue 23-Jun-09 10:26:44

What will happen if you stop him seeing the children? YOu should. Has he alrady got a contact agreement (?)(no idea about these things) If he kicks up a fuss with his solicitor, would this not all be looked at? DO not let him have the children while he is drunk! He cannot forcefully take them

Schoolgirl Tue 23-Jun-09 10:29:35

If you don't want him seeing the children then imo you shouldn't let him see the children until you feel they're safe. their welfare is paramount.

It's quite hard to give you any advice without knowing a bit more background? What exactly is your solicitor saying? She should be carrying out your instructions and advising you as to the consequences (e.g. ex may seek court order for contact if you prevent children from seeing him).

What happened 18 months ago? Did he get so abusive that you're frightened of not letting him see the children again? If so, you should be getting separate legal advice on that issue.

From what you have said, it seems very much as if you feel you need some sort of outside intervention. I would say that this is a situation where you can take control and put a stop to things you believe are hurting your children and expect other services like your solicitor or social services to back you up on that score.

Apologies if I've got the wrong end of the stick.

chim000 Tue 23-Jun-09 12:05:29

Hi thanks for replies, will reply to all questions later on, just didn't want you all to think I was ignoring your questions & advice.

chim000 Tue 23-Jun-09 18:20:08

Yes edam, I am on legal aid. I was told it's a very good firm, but obviously not going to get their top man. She may well be very good, but I think we both took an instant dislike to each other and the relationship has stayed that way ever since. I will have a look at the link you have posted, give them a call and see what advice they can give re changing solicitor. I believe I can only change solicitor if I move or have a complaint, and disliking someone with a passion is not grounds for complaint but maybe they can help me work round it. (Just thinking out loud here)

I'll also see if there is anything that Woman Aid can do or if they can reccommend anything.

The solicitor just will not listen to me, as in won't let me get a word in edgeways. She's speaks over me all of the time & I really don't like her attitude towards me. I have tried to voice my concerns to her about the consequences of taking legal action against him. He is very intimidating, very aggressive & basically scares the hell out of me. I have had injunctions out on him in the past due to his violent behaviour but was too damn scared to actually action them on the occasions I needed to, as I knew that if I had actioned them the consequences would have been worse for me. He is also not afraid to use his violence on me in front of the children. The 1st time he physically assaulted me (the night we were splitting up) he actually had one boy under one arm and the other under the other arm while he gave me a kicking. He also crushed my arm in the front door while ds1 was trying to 'rescue' me. The look of terror and the screams from the boys will stay with me forever. This is why I'm scared of with-holding contact from him & why I want someone else to do it for me. Getting solicitors involved will not stop him from behaving in this way towards me. The 2nd time he assaulted me he did it while I was on the phone to the 999 operator. (After behaving like an utter &%$£ towards the police he was released without charge as I had no marks on me so it was his word against mine hmm)

All I want is a nice life for me and my children. I want their dad to have an active involvement in their upbringing and enjoy spending time with them, doing things that tehy want to do. He doesn't see that he has a problem with alcohol and cannabis. He claims that he can go for a weekend without a drink if it means he gets to see the boys, but I don't know how I can monitor this. I want their father to behave like a normal human being.

I'm not sure what I want SS to do, but I'm sure that if someone reported that I was drunk and stoned whenever the children are in my care, they would be round here like a shot. I also know that SS speaking to him about his drinking etc would have a lot more impact than from a solicitor. It might even give him the kick up the arse to stop thinking of himself and the pub & to think about his sons.

Sorry, I think I may have gone into one a little there, but it's the best way I can describe why I'm so reluctant to stop contact on my own. I'm so much stronger now than I was 18 months ago, which would only have been a few months after we split up and while we were still backwards and forwards to the courts. I don't want/I can't go back to the person I was then. I can't go through that hell again.

EldonAve Tue 23-Jun-09 18:26:41

What exactly do you want the solicitor to do?

SammyK Tue 23-Jun-09 18:33:17

Get to women's aid and ask for their help. I can't understand how it is he is still allowed contact? Did you press charges when he attacked you?

If it is on record (the attack) and the burn on your son is on file with SS I would just block contact myself. Let him take you to court. I know a mum who did this, got threatened with jail (was working as a prison warden at the time), and took it to court (similar DV issues but without the harm to dcs). She said she would rather go to jail than risk this 'man' having regular unsupervised conatct with her dcs. I have to say I would do the same.

Do you live near to him? Do you have friends and family nearby?

fucksticks Tue 23-Jun-09 18:37:59

So SS have told you to stop the contact yourself and have told you that if you do NOT stop the contact and anything happens while the children are at their fathers, then the children can be taken away from you?
I think based on that, YOU NEED to stop the contact. I know you are scared to because he was violent before, and that it would be easier all round if SS or your solicitor were to step in and sort it all out for you.
But it looks like they arent. They want you to. Hard as it is, you NEED to just do it yourself for all of you, especially the children.
Call womens aid and get as much support as you can for taking this big brave step by yourself.
Good luck.

chim000 Tue 23-Jun-09 19:04:57

EldonAve - I don't want the solicitor to do anything, but SS have told me that I need to go down the solicitor route as they will not do anything.

Thank you SammyK & fucksticks. I would never have thought of Womens Aid before Chops suggested it, but ds2 is at nursery tomorrow so I have plenty of time (and peace & quiet wink) to call them.

Yes I did press charges the 1st time & he was charged and convicted, although pitiful sentencing (my nephew received worse for shouting at his mother) 1st time around. 2nd time was the time they didn't have proof despite the 999 call. This was when I got the non-molestation order out.

Not only am I scared of him but I'm scared of the lies that he will tell the authorities. He will tell them he doesn't take drugs (he only appears normal when he is on them - when he has not 'had a smoke' he is aggressive and, given the opportunity, violent). I saw his probation report after the court case for the DV. In it he said he does not take drugs of any sort. He also said that he had a 'normal upbringing' and had never witnessed DV. His mum spent 40 years having the shit beaten out of her by his dad. Was hospitalised on many occasions, and often didn't go to hospital for treatment becasue of the questions raised. His dad also beat the older children & when xp was 15 he and his dad had proper full on fights, xp has the scars to show. There are many others stories he has told from his childhood & teenage years that are far from what I would call 'normal'. Then obviously there was the case of the 2nd assault where he has lied to the police and been believed. He will go into court acting the innocent & he will be believed. That is also what I am afraid of.

SammyK Tue 23-Jun-09 19:26:49

Women's Aid will be just what you need, they will hopefully advise you on your legal aid/solicitor situation, as well as supporting you in that they have lots of experiences in 'men' like this, they are familiar with all of their tricks, lies and tactics, and will be totally on your side and rooting for you.

If you do continue allowing the dcs to go with him, you may lose them.

I know that sounds dramatic, I don't want it to upset you, but it is a possibility.

Can they be 'ill' this weekend? That way at least you have a week plus to set some things in motion egarding blocking access.

Does he drive when on drugs? If he has a routine I would shop him in the hope he gets done for drug driving. angry

HecatesTwopenceworth Tue 23-Jun-09 19:28:34

what would happen if next time they visited you made a call to the police and reported a man drunk and incapable and abusive in charge of his children?

I know it's sneaky, but if SS will listen to police and not to you, it would at least get the job done?

chim000 Tue 23-Jun-09 19:59:32

My neighbour has actually suggested both of those - the 'ill' route & the anonymous phone call. The only thing is I'm not sure how to go about an anonymous call. I have thought about getting a friend to set up a 'birthday party' at wacky warehouse. It is right opposite his flat and there is no way he would go there without drinking but I'm not sure how I would pull it off. His flat is not in a position where I could watch to see if he is drunk.

The boys are with me this weekend & the following is his weekend but I am in London on the Friday meaning that he would have to collect them both from school/nursery which would be far too difficult for him to do. hmm So I suspect that they will be with my parents that night. Which does give me some time to get things moving, and get my head round things.

No, he does not drive as he was banned when we split up for drink driving, and as far as I know has not applied for his licence since the 12 months was up.

Schoolgirl Tue 23-Jun-09 22:49:34

Gosh Chim - it certainly sounds as if you've been through the mill with this guy. I can understand why you don't want to go back to the way things were when your relationship first broke down. But remember that you're a different person now and things may not necessarily pan out the way they did when you were (I imagine) struggling to cope with the end of an abusive relationship and life as a single mother.

I think you need to break this whole problem down into single issues in order to regain some control.

Firstly, your solicitor - why can't you change her? Who said you have to put in a complaint about her before you can have a different solicitor? TBH unless it's in your original client care letter, it sounds like rubbish. Contact the head of department/managing partner and say you no longer feel comfortable with your current solicitor and if they can't accommodate a move to someone with (a) more experience with dv and (b) more empathy with dv victims, then you'll find a firm who will. I second contacting Women's Aid for that reason only - they will have solicitors on their rota who specialise in this area or simply contact the Law Society for legal aid firms in this field in your area.

Secondly, social services. I think this is a bit of a lame duck actually. As you said, if it were you who was displaying erratic behaviour, drunk or high when caring for your children, they'd be in there like a shot. Unfortunately because this is a contact issue, they would expect you to step in (as the primary carer) and put a stop to it if it was not in the children's interests. I think this has a lot to do with resources - social workers have so many cases and so little time, they would find it hard to justify starting an assessment simply to advise your ex to act more appropriately when the DCs are in his care. It all takes time and money and, from their perspective, it's wasted since they can't actually take action themselves - unless of course it's against you because you allow them to see him.

His behaviour - you mentioned that you previously had a non-molestation order which you did not action when his behaviour breached the terms. Might this be where your solicitor's attitude is coming from. I'm not saying she's correct but perhaps she feels that there's little she can do to help you if, even when you get a court order to have him arrested you refuse to carry out the threat. Court orders like this are quite difficult to get nowadays especially where children are involved because the court are reluctant to set up a situation where co-parenting is scuppered in this way without really good evidence that there is potential harm to both the applicant and any children.

I think you have to draw a line in the sand and say no more. I would ask your (old/new) solicitor to write a letter as briefly as possible setting out the conditions upon which you expect contact to take place - no drinking, no drug-taking, immediate contact in the case of injury etc. Set out the consequences of breaching any of the conditions and then stick to it. If you pick up the kids and he seems drunk, tell him contact is suspended until he takes a drug/alcohol test. Stick to that line even if he takes you to court. If he gets violent, call the police immediately. Give them a statement. Co-operate with them. If he's arrested and charged with an offence, he can be bailed on condition not to contact you. If he's warned for harassment, similar conditions can be set.

You have to see this as a long-term thing. It sounds as though he's taken you to hell and back but he will continue to do so until you make a stand. All the talking and pleading in the world won't make a difference now - if he didn't take you, the police or your solicitor seriously, he won't listen to a social worker believe me.

If you don't want to be so confrontational from the outset, maybe suggest mediation so that you can draw up some sort of working agreement which involves regular testing/drug counselling as well as more supervised contact to start with. If he refuses to mediate and threatens court action, he'll get a slap on the wrist from the judge at the first hearing which is called a "mediation hearing" anyway!

Sorry if I've gone on a bit but you do sound as if you need some motivation to take the first step. Your DS's injury should be all the motivation you need. It's not good enough on his part and he needs to understand that.

mrswill Sun 28-Jun-09 20:54:53

Just an echo of what everyone else has said. Get Womens Aid involved, just so another official agency have on record what you've put here, and any updates. You are WELL within your rights to refuse unsupervised contact. If you are afraid of any repercussions from your ex, you need to call the police, or local Independant Domestic Violence Advisor who should be based in one of the local police stations, and they will put a marker on your address if anything were to happen and you would need someone round there asap. If you are still keen to get ss involved, get in contact with one of the managers, or write a letter to the official head outlining your concerns, at least its down on paper then. I cant think of anything else, but we have a lot of this stuff going on at work, and i think your reasons are completely valid!

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