This email with attachments came from former MP John Hemming, after I put him in touch with the author of the ‘expert’ report on Adoption without Consent Dr Claire Flenton-Glynn:
I am happy to engage with the issues in the report. I chair the Justice for Families Campaign. I was MP for Birmingham, Yardley from 2005-15 and my degree is in Atomic, Nuclear and Theoretical Physics from Magdalen College, Oxford – I had a scholarship in Natural Sciences. My career outside politics has been in computing where I founded a company now called JHC Systems Ltd (JHC=John Hemming & Co) which now employs over 250 people with a turn over in excess of £20m – I chair the board. I was also a City Councillor in Birmingham from 1990-2008 and deputy leader of the council 2004-5. I came into this area looking at the numbers and identifying that there was injustice from the numbers.
The nub of the issue, however, is that there has continued to be pressure on practitioners from 2000 to date to increase the number of children adopted from care (with a slight lightening from 2008-10). The problem with that is that this results in children who would otherwise stay either with their extended family or indeed return to their natural parents instead of being adopted. In fact it causes children to be taken into care in England who would not be taken into care on the European Continent.
Adoption without consent in accordance with international law is supposed to be “exceptional”. The statistics (see table 2, not table 1 in the table 1/2 attachment) when looking at what happens to children under the age of 5 demonstrates that adoption without consent is not “exceptional” (within the context of the cohort of children in care).
The UK state argues that the word “exceptional” is within the context of the cohort of children as a whole. That is obviously nonsense as it is exceptional that a child is taken into care.
The second table “psahistoricadoptions” gives details of the grants given to childrens services authorities (a local authority) for increasing the numbers of adoptions in their area. The sources for this information are the English government.
From 2000-2006 there were “adoption targets” which set objectives for local authorities to increase the numbers of adoptions. PSA Public Service Agreements were in place to reward some LAs for specific increases, but also Ofsted put pressure on councils to increase numbers.
From 2006-8 the adoption targets were changed to permanence targets including Special Guardianship Orders and Residency Orders. It is misleading to say as is said in the report that there were no adoption targets as there were targets to increase adoptions (or SGOs or Residency Orders). Adoptions are cheaper for local authorities in the long term as in theory there is no ongoing cost.
Local authorities also had hypothecated funding for adoptions (see attachment – adoption grant78). The nature of large organisations is that they continue doing what they have been doing unless there is pressure on them to change.
From 2008-10 pressure on LAs to increase adoptions eased, but with the new government and the work of Martin Narey pressure was increased yet again to increase adoptions.
When Re B http://www.familylawweek.co.uk/site.aspx?i=ed114491 came out the number of children placed for adoption reduced and we are in that phase at the moment.
Hence although in recent years there has not been an adoption target there has been pressure from central government to increase adoption numbers. In that there is not a maximum number for adoptions it is misleading to say there is no “adoption target” without revealing that there remains pressure to increase adoptions.
The courts rely on the opinion of local authority social workers to decide whether or not to place a child for adoption. At least one social worker has been sacked for failing to recommend adoption. Normally people will give in to the managerial pressure to make such a recommendation.
There are two types of international cases that provide useful information.
- There are those cases when the English state intervenes on non UK EU nationals. These cases at times get involvement from the Hague Convention Central Authority of the country of the EU National that has the experience in this area of work. They often find the decisions in England odd to say the least.
- The second type is when UK citizens leave the UK to avoid intervention by the UK state. This can be done lawfully as a form of forum shopping whereby people decide to emigrate because they face removal of a baby at birth (normally pregnant mothers). For example there is a pregnant mother in France today who has had 5 children taken off her, the latter 4 removed at birth because she at one stage had a violent partner. She is expecting to be sent home with her baby by the French authorities – who are aware of the situation. The local authority tried to prevent her from emigrating.
There are in excess of 100 families in Ireland – I personally don’t recommend Ireland as their system will take action at the request of the English authorities – although the courts may resist this at times. The French and Spanish authorities are more likely to make their own judgments. People need to learn French or Spanish and work, however.
There have been people leave the UK to go to lots of countries and this information can be found.
The case Lashin v Russia (Application no. 33117/02) means that relying on the opinion of social workers (employees of the local authority) as to whether a child should be removed permanently from its family is unlawful. However, this is in English law normal.