The Telegraph reports : Judge removes child from disabled mother over costs of care. The sub-heading reads : Boy removed from disabled mother’s care over costs as judge dismisses an allegation of ‘social engineering’.
We wondered how accurate the headline and body of the article were.
We have identified the judgment on BAILII here by searching the name of the Local Authority and judge and cross checking against the direct quote from the judge in the article. The case is: Re T (A Child)  EWFC B123 (23 July 2015).
The judgment says “this judgment should be read in conjunction with my earlier fact finding judgment”, but unfortunately that judgment has not been published, so we have some detail missing. We have asked the judicial office if the judgment is going to be published and will update this post if it is.
Based on the judgment we do have, relevant background facts include :
- there are two children, both suffering from a genetic disorder and developmental delay.
- The father has been found to have sexually abused the older child, who is in foster care (see previous judgment if published). Criminal proceedings appear to be ongoing.
- There were also concerns about unintentional but chronic neglect of the children.
- All the professionals and experts involved with the children shared broadly the same view about the capacity of the mother to care, even with support.
- The judgment was about what should happen to the younger child who had remained in her care.
- The father has left the home due to bail conditions but neither parent accepts the findings.
- The mother is learning disabled and suffers from anxiety. Her disability does not appear to be physical.
- The court concluded the mother could not protect the child from the father or meet his specific needs as a disabled and delayed child.
It is quite long, but the important passage in the judgment is here at paragraphs 135-6 :
One of the major issues in this case has been to the extent to which it would be possible for the local authority in providing support to the mother to care for T could effectively make up for her deficits and for T in that way to be provided with good enough parenting. It has been suggested that to remove T from his mother’s care and provide an optimum level of parenting by adopters or long term foster carers is in effect a feature of social engineering.
1. The level of support that would be required in relation to such an arrangement would be so extensive as to be detrimental to T’s welfare.
2. The mother due to her high level of anxiety has found it difficult in the past to fully engage with the extent of help being offered and although proceedings may have finished would be ever fearful and anxious regarding local authority involvement which in turn would devolve on T.
3. T needs better than good enough parenting and if he does not receive it then the harm identified by Dr Mallya would intensify. The gap between his chronological and developmental age is already widening while in the care of the mother. Continued care by her would cause him continuing and increasing significant harm, albeit entirely unintentional.
4. T’s welfare needs requires him to be removed from his mother’s care and continued care by her in the home environment will be harmful to him and he will not be able to reach his potential as his mother is unable to promote his development consistently. This would have an impact on the opportunities available to him in later life. I find that although there is little doubt that T is the centre of the mother’s firmament she has been unable to consistently implement the advice and strategies that professionals have offered but, to her very great credit, has made some progress since she was T’s sole carer since the autumn of 2014.
The contents of the article appear to be factually accurate extracts from the judgment, and appear to properly represent the arguments that were made by counsel for the mother, that the court was engaging in social engineering, but the court disagreed.
But even though there is nothing inaccurate in the article it is highly selective and the reader would be completely unaware of the broader context, concerns and findings about the harm suffered by the children and the risks to them. The judge’s view (rightly or wrongly) was that support services for the mother from the state would have to be so extensive that they would in themselves undermine the provision of better than average, consistent care – that the child needed to catch up from his severe delay.
Whether or not the judge’s view was right, the article does not give the reader any chance of accurately understanding the reasons that the judge gave for his decision – which were not about cost at all. Boiled down the judgment seems to be that even if you put in all the services in the world to help mum parent, that package would itself be detrimental to the child, who needed to be cared for by a person, not a package.
[Update 7/9/15 : See also Suesspicious Minds Blog about this case here, in which he makes some of the points above but also considers potential flaws in the judgment and identifies the difficulty in properly understanding it without sight of the threshold findings, or more concrete plain english examples of the mother’s difficulties]