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Is the Child Protection system fit for purpose – a conference on 1st June


This conference has been set up by members of the Transparency Project  of which I am a tiny part  (a cog who is not pulling his weight at the moment)


You may know Lucy Reed from Pink Tape , or Sarah Philimore from Child Protection Resource who are the driving force behind this conference. They are the Mary Berry / Paul Hollywood combo – not necessarily in that order.  Many of you may also know Jerry Lonsdale,  who is like the James Bond of the MacKenzie Friend world. And there are many other cool people involved – I’m particularly looking forward to hearing from Sir Mark Hedley and  Kristy Seddon (who is a remarkably impressive care leaver)

So this conference is open to anyone – lawyers, Judges, journalists, social workers, guardians, experts and most importantly real people.

It is going to be like the Glastonbury of family justice. As such, for the small bit I am doing, I will be writing in a blue counsel’s notebook with it behind my back, then with my pen in my teeth and finally setting fire to the notebook.


Policing Parents? Protecting Children? Promoting Adoption?

Do we get the child protection system we deserve

The Transparency Project is pleased to announce a multi-discliplinary conference, on 1st June 2015, which will discuss the different views and perspectives from experts, lawyers, social workers, parents and care leavers in an attempt to re-position the current unhealthily polarised debate around the child protection system.

We will be joined by Dr Lauren Devine of UWE who is currently undertaking research into the evidence base for our current system and by Brigid Featherstone, co-author of ‘Re Imagining Child Protection’.

The conference will take place at the NCVO facilities, near Kings Cross in London

Register for tickets – until Feb 28th 2015.

To register for tickets, please email

Please let us know which afternoon workshop you would like to attend and if you want a vegetarian meal option.

We want to keep costs low but need to charge to cover costs of venue hire and catering. Lunch and refreshments will be available on the day.

Professionals 5 + years PQE £100/Professionals 0-5 years PQE £50 – discount of 20% if 3 or more members of the same organisation book together.

Waged £30

Unwaged £5

We will be seeking accreditation for CPD points for both the Bar and solicitors.

Topics for afternoon discussion

Suggestions are coming in for the issues most likely to require debate/discussion. Please feel free to contact us to add more.

  • Section 20 agreements – the drift and delay problems. Are there adequate mechanisms in place for review of these? What’s the IRO doing?
  • The anti-authority parent – does disagreeing with or failing to co-operate with a social worker equate to being a ‘bad parent’? What can be done to improve relationships between parents and social workers? These issues are highlighted in the recent Hertfordshire case and discussions over at suesspicious minds.
  • Risk of future emotional harmRe B [2013] is this an acceptable basis for removing children for adoption?
  • Perception of experts as independent – what should happen if experts in a case are on a ‘paid retainer’ with a LA? also an issue raised in the Hertfordshire case above.
  • Problems with ‘working together’ – example of recent disjunction between family and housing law discussed by Nearly Legal. How do we make sure family courts have the best information about issues they may not be familiar with nor fully understand?
  • Opening up the family courts – the impact on children. Is it likely to be a serious as some fear? What lessons can we learn from other jurisdictions?
  • Impact on care proceedings of the rise of litigants in person – what can be done to improve position for people who won’t get legal aid? see discussions by John Bolch on Marilyn Stowe’s blog.
  • Funding for therapeutic intervention- what options should or could be available for parents who are advised they need lengthy therapy/counselling?
  • How is the UK system viewed in Europe? – note the recent report ‘Social services in Europe: legislation and practice of the removal of children from their families in Council of Europe member States’, in particular para 74 which criticises the refusal of the UK system to reverse adoption orders as a ‘misunderstanding’ of what is in the best interests of a child.


9.15-9.45 Registration
9.45 -10.00 Introduction and welcome Sir Mark Hedley
10.00-10.30 Evaluation of the Evidence Base for current practice Dr Lauren Devine UWE
10.30-11.00 Re-Imagining Child Protection Brigid Featherstone
11.00-11.30 Coffee break
11.30-12.00 Expert reports and assessments; new directions for 2015. Lisa Wolfe and colleagues
12.00-12.30 Care leavers’ perspectives Kirsty Seddon
12.30-1.15 Parents’ perspectives on the system Introduction by Jerry Londsdale .
1.15-2.00 Lunch Invitations to complete a ‘next steps’ questionnaire online.
2.00 – 3.15 Parallel discussion groups/workshops See below
2.45-3.15 refreshments and informal discussions Post-it note ‘instant’ feedback wall
3.15-4.15 Top table panel lead Q&A discussion Top table of morning’s plenary speakers
4.15 – 4.30 Closing summary, distil the day and key outcomes – call to action? Sarah Phillimore
PM parallel discussion groups/workshops from 2pm to 3.15pm

A. Intervention versus interference: To what extent should we safeguard? Northumbria University.
B. Family Law Toolkit: how language influences outcomes, achieving best evidence. Update on case law when adoption is ‘necessary’; advice on appeal, Legal aid and exceptional funding, ‘hidden LiPs’ and issues of transparency Alice Twaite, Sarah Phillimore, Lucy Reed and Dr Kate Harrington
C. Therapeutic interventions and community support Angela Markham, Jane Auld, National Parenting Initiative, Families In Care
D. Is good enough, good enough? – expectations around parents with learning disabilities, what kind of support needed? Beth Tarleton and Nadine Tilbury, University of Bristol

About suesspiciousminds

Law geek, local authority care hack, fascinated by words and quirky information; deeply committed to cheesecake and beer.

15 responses

  1. Ashamed to be British

    Many thanks for bringing this to the attention of your public.

    Bet that’s the first time Jerry’s been called the James Bond of anything :p – a massive well done to him, Kirsty and all involved, at least this is one case where those who know can speak freely without a gagging order

  2. stella aka toni macleod

    just registered ……. interesting to say the least 🙂 x


      1:- Domestic Violence even when restricted to shouting and even when the violent parent separated years agoThe theory is that if children see their parents argue and (God forbid!) shout at each other they will suffer significant EMOTIONAL ABUSE and should be taken away to the illusory safety of the extremely dangerous State care system! .If this rule was applied in Italy there would be no parents left with children at all !Even in the UK ,show me a couple who have been together 3 years or more who claim they never quarrel or shout at each other and I will show you two liars !

      2:- Borderline personality disorder or narcissistic traits ! Usually diagnosed by a psychiatrist or psychologist who habitually gives evidence to the family courts in favour of social services and with few if any private patients.Parents are routinely refused a second opinion and if they get a highly favourable report from a top expert paying privately it is usually ignored even when it is more up to date .

      3:- Hostility and refusal to engage or work with professionals.It is however difficult to work with persons who tell you their intention is to take your newborn baby or young children and give them to strangers for adoption !

      4:-A parent who was abused in childhood or who was brought up “in care” is often deemed to be an unfit parent because of the danger that they had no parents in care and learned nothing of parenthood or that they would in turn repeat the abuse they had suffered as a child by abusing their own children !

      5:- A father (and sometimes a mother) with a criminal record of violence that was against other adults but never against their partner or their children is still judged too much of a danger to care for children even if the offences are several years old;

      6:- An untidy house,children who stay up late, or a chaotic lifestyle that does not fit in with the way our politically correct social workers think we should live !

      7:-Absences from school or reports from school that a child was heard reporting ill treatment to another child.Such cases are of course worth investigating but never warrant the immediate removal of the child by social services as happens only too often.A child returning from school with a bruise, or a child accidentally breaking or fracturing a limb is nearly always held to be the victim of an “unexplained” injury,and that soon translates into a non accidental injury for which parents are blamed and the child removed into “state care”( where abuse is commonplace) even when there is no previous pattern of bruises or injuries.

      8:-Anonymous tip offs now descibed as “referrals reporting physical or sexual abuse of a child with no further evidence,” that often result in the immediate removal of a child often based purely on hearsay and gossip.

      9:- Parents who “put their own needs before those of their children” .A “mantra” that is repeated in a monotone by social workers when they can think of no other criticism of parents to make .A completely meaningless phrase that gives a false sense of superiority to the person making it when really it is just their unsubstantiated opinion.

      10:- And perhaps worst of all…… Babies are removed at birth for “RISK OF EMOTIONAL ABUSE”;Yes you read correctly, Social workers actually do claim to predict the future and for parents it is always a bleak one when the “SS” consult their tea-leaves or their” crystal balls” ! Gypsies can be quite accurate through generations of practice when they predict your future but social workers and judges?? UGH !Mothers suffer the worst possible punishment inflicted in the UK since hangings were abolished.(That is what the President of the family courts Sir James Munby said in a recent case!) The removal of their new born babies at birth to be given away for life to complete strangers for adoption is far far worse for parents than any prison sentence !……………

      • Ashamed to be British

        4. This my friend, just goes to show the care system doesn’t produce well rounded adults and is detrimental, my argument always being, why, if the LA feel those in the care system are not fit to parent due to basic family upbringing, would you place another child into the same crappy system, with the same crappy outcome?!

      • Ashamed to be British… possibly the outcomes of looked after children are more impacted by the child’s experience of being parented prior to coming into care ?

      • I cant agree, I’ve witnessed literally 100’s of happy go lucky kids go into care, only to become spiteful, distrusting, suicidal young people, with no sense of identity, most have attempted suicide and many end up in jail, usually on drug related charges, each and every one has stated clearly that the care system is so abusive (in many ways) that they simply cannot cope with life

      • A Social Worker

        In what capacity have you witnessed this? Just help me contextualise your answer. Cheers

  3. I think we should all go to this !!!

    Sent from my iPad


    • I suggest another topic for urgent discussion….
      .Can it ever be right for a court to deprive by injunction either parent of all contact (direct or indirect)with a child they have never been convicted of harming??

      • Ashamed to be British

        You don’t need a court order for that Ian! Just challenge the social worker and thats your contact gone!

  4. From looking at this in a little more detail, this still seems to be fairly public law centric and the title a little disingenuous. The vast majority of Child Protection matters that come to the attention of social workers do not make their way to court and result in fair and safe outcomes. You only need to look at our child homicide rates in the UK compared to the rest of the world to conclude that our system is among the most effective in keeping children safe.

    • Please read my previous response to you, the care system is DANGEROUS! Ask any child who has been through it.

    • To refuse to engage with real and serious problems in the current system on the basis that more children are murdered in other parts of the world is an odd response.

      In what way is this conference title ‘disingenuous’ ? I agree with Real Person – these comments demonstrate precisely why this conference is so necessary. People need to come out of their bunkers and engage with what is actually going on.

      The conference is ‘public law centric’ because it is supposed to be a discussion about and engagement with the current problems in the public law system that deals with child protection. Therefore it would be odd if it were not ‘public law centric’. If you have topics for further discussion or other issues you think need to be addressed, then please do let us know.

  5. I think the comments prove why this conference needs to go ahead. Congrats for the foresight to arrange it. Start talking together people , share experience and just maybe it may change the child protection system for the better.

  6. I would be interested to know if A Social Worker thinks the issues explored here are also ‘disengenous’ and/or not worthy of further exploration.

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