Haringey council tried to crush our family

Sheila Struthers

Well-known member
Speaking for the first time since a historic court case, a couple who risked losing their child and their careers describe the 22-month battle to clear their names

The nightmare for the family is over, but AB and CD remain concerned about the council that hounded them. And they are scathing about social work’s brave new world. “Social work offices are like call centres now, with staff just updating intrusive databases,” says CD. “We’ve abandoned helping people. We now just have the world of surveillance and policing.”
:(

The father, CD, is a senior social worker, and the mother, AB, is a respected freelance
More from CD...

CD, an active trade unionist when younger, says: “I studied Sovietology for years, the single party, the single state, and it’s the way to understand Haringey. You’re the enemy if you dare challenge. Our case shows how any evidence can be made to seem deviant. A state in which this can happen is a state out of control. Everyone makes mistakes but Haringey’s programming is: 'We make sure that no one finds out.’
“There was no one in Haringey who would stop this madness. We contacted our MP, councillors, Haringey’s director and no one, not one, responded. It’s the Stalinist model – once the central power had said, 'This is where we are going,’ no one can challenge it.”
 
Landmark judgment which you can read in full here:

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2013/416.html

Key element was failure to follow procedure ( the checks and balances might have prevented escalation ) and the law which was clearly broken:

(76) The initial data-gathering exercise was unlawful in two respects: The initial request for data was sent to EF's GP accompanied by the erroneous information that LBH was currently working with the family, that LBH was already undertaking a CYPS assessment and that confidential details including the possible presence of risk indicators of physical abuse, should be provided. In addition to these statements or implications being erroneous, no consent had been obtained from EF's parents and it was not a justification to seek the information without consent that their identity was not at that time known since this statement was also untrue. The consent of the parents had not been obtained before the school was approached. Moreover, it was impermissible to post details of the referral on RIO to enable the school nurse to read them prior to obtaining the parents' consent.

(77) These were serious departures from permissible practice and these actions were unlawful.
Good comment from the solicitor who represented the family:

Human rights have disappeared from ‘Working Together’ – Allan Norman
http://ukhumanrightsblog.com/2013/04/09/human-rights-have-disappeared-from-working-together-allan-norman/

Essentially this is about over referral which, in the context of this judgment was clearly illegal. In the context of 'illegal' there is a deeper issue of creating false information and then sharing that information. If Social Workers want to make something up to escalate a case (purely to protect themselves) then that is shockingly easy for them to do.

That, ultimately, is the 4th Data Protection principle - data shall be accurate . . .

Judge Thorntons ruling now passes into the Common Law and a lot of people may be helped by that.
 

Admin

Administrator
This case demonstrates how far down the road to ruin we have gone.

How many families would have the energy and resources to fight this sort of injustice based on a malicious referral compounded by lying and incompetent 'professionals' who make it up as they go along?

We are aware of similar incidences of anonymous referrals which are followed up by an army of multi-agency busybodies who gather and share information without consent in the absence of evidence of risk to children.

Early interference with other people's children is now established govt policy and their assurances about adhering to data protection principles are frankly risible.
 
Absolutely Ali,

And how many families would even have known they were being done an injustice in the first place?

If you don't already know the procedures, and have the information on them needing permission to share information etc., you won't know to make a complaint :frusty:

How many families have already been subject to this kind of treatment and their lives been blown apart?
 
This is really interesting, this is almost exactly what happened to us, although in a different part of London. They went straight from row with social worker to Child Protection Conference; there was no initial assessment and no CP enquiry. Much was made of my 'hostility' towards social workers because of my angry reaction to their false accusations and pretty much everything this family details is what happened to us.

I've contacted the law firm that represented this family, now he told me that their process was a Judicial Review. At the time this was happening to us (six years ago now) I was told a Judicial Review was only an option if the child was put on the at risk register and it's not clear from that article whether that happened or not. I have contacted a number of solicitors over the years to see if we could sue and never got anywhere with it.

At the time it was going on I fought it tooth and nail and made numerous complaints. Each response I got back basically ignored what I said and whitewashed over the points, even when I phrased it in numbered bullet points and in such a way that the questions just needed a yes/no answer. Eventually it went to the ombudsman; they concluded that no-one had followed procedures, inaccurate information had been used blah blah blah but still took absolutely no action against anyone involved. They deliberately lied, you can see it when you cross reference the paperwork but the focus is on covering everything up. It's making my blood boil just writing about it again!

It's probably too late for us to take any further action now, I think six years is the limit. Hopefully this ruling will help others in similar situations, what a disgusting situation.
 

Sheila Struthers

Well-known member
Early interference with other people's children is now established govt policy and their assurances about adhering to data protection principles are frankly risible.
I posted this about early interference but didn't have time to expand.

To add to those links here is the foundation's newly launched website.

This has been on the cards for quite some time and (just in case anyone can't see it) this is international: that nasty wee vid on the homepage is is presented by The UK Early Intervention Foundation, The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University and The Creative Media and Behavioral Health Center at the University of Southern California.

Next month will see the first meetings of the new Evidence Panel and Evidence Forum. Professor Leon Feinstein, Interim Head of Evidence will invite academics and other experts in the study and science of early intervention, including international experts from a range of relevant disciplines to provide academic rigour to the development of the Foundation’s evidence and research framework.

The Foundation will focus initially on programmes in England but will also engage with partners across the UK, and internationally, who share the objective of promoting early intervention.
 

Admin

Administrator
LHE, you are an inspiration.

I wish the law would do what it says on the bloody tin and the idea of equality of arms wasn't such a joke.

Employment tribinals are no longer going to be accessible to most people, and just look at the scandal that is ATOS.
 
What I really don't understand is the SS attitude to parents who react with perceived hostility or 'aggression' . Are they really so completely disfunctional as to believe that parents should welcome them with open arms, as they are informed of accusations against them?

It's well known that FEAR can present as hostility or 'aggressive' speech - and let's face it the kind of 'aggressive behaviour' being referred to by SS is merely raised voices, not attempts to push, shove etc. - and who wouldn't react with fear and upset if they find the SS on the doorstep accusing them of allsorts against their children!
 
This is really interesting, this is almost exactly what happened to us, although in a different part of London. They went straight from row with social worker to Child Protection Conference; there was no initial assessment and no CP enquiry. Much was made of my 'hostility' towards social workers because of my angry reaction to their false accusations and pretty much everything this family details is what happened to us.

I've contacted the law firm that represented this family, now he told me that their process was a Judicial Review. At the time this was happening to us (six years ago now) I was told a Judicial Review was only an option if the child was put on the at risk register and it's not clear from that article whether that happened or not. I have contacted a number of solicitors over the years to see if we could sue and never got anywhere with it.

At the time it was going on I fought it tooth and nail and made numerous complaints. Each response I got back basically ignored what I said and whitewashed over the points, even when I phrased it in numbered bullet points and in such a way that the questions just needed a yes/no answer. Eventually it went to the ombudsman; they concluded that no-one had followed procedures, inaccurate information had been used blah blah blah but still took absolutely no action against anyone involved. They deliberately lied, you can see it when you cross reference the paperwork but the focus is on covering everything up. It's making my blood boil just writing about it again!

It's probably too late for us to take any further action now, I think six years is the limit. Hopefully this ruling will help others in similar situations, what a disgusting situation.
From the full judgment:

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2013/416.html

In this case, the female claimant ("AB") and the male claimant, "CD", seek a judicial review of a decision of the defendant, the London Borough of Haringey ("LBH"), to undertake an enquiry pursuant to section 47 of the Children Act 1989 ("the section 47 enquiry") into whether the claimants' child ("EF"), who was then aged 6 years 7 months, was suffering or was likely to suffer significant harm. This decision was taken by an appropriately qualified officer, Ms Sylvia Chew, LBH's Head of Service for First Response, on 5 May 2011 but the only indication that it had been taken is her statement that "this department will be undertaking a Section 47 investigation in relation to your child" in a letter she sent to AB and CD on 5 May 2011. This judicial review is, therefore, concerned with whether a decision was taken and, if it was, whether that decision should be set aside as being unlawful, unreasonable or irrational.
Basically, if you can prove that Section 47 proceedings have commenced without the statutory checks having been made then, as I take it, you have a case.

The key word is 'statutory'.
 
It's probably too late for us to take any further action now, I think six years is the limit. Hopefully this ruling will help others in similar situations, what a disgusting situation.
If you haven't done anything for six years then that might be the case, but if it happened over six years ago but you've been following procedures and complaining so that it's active, then I think you're not past any time limit because you have been slowly going through step by step, fighting every case.

If they could just force people to drop stuff after six years, then policy would be to drag everything out to the six year limit and then say 'sorry, too late'. If the case is active then I don't think the clock starts ticking.
 
LHE, you are an inspiration.

I wish the law would do what it says on the bloody tin and the idea of equality of arms wasn't such a joke.

Employment tribinals are no longer going to be accessible to most people, and just look at the scandal that is ATOS.
Not an inspiration at all, I was terrified and a gibbering wreck but I think sometimes that's what makes you fight. There are few things more scary than the thought of losing your child, I think. I was also quite naive and didn't know how corrupt the system was back then, I kept thinking that eventually someone would gasp and say "This is terrible" and put a stop to it. Seems silly now but I used to think that the public sector was honest and there to help :wacko:
 
What I really don't understand is the SS attitude to parents who react with perceived hostility or 'aggression' . Are they really so completely disfunctional as to believe that parents should welcome them with open arms, as they are informed of accusations against them?

It's well known that FEAR can present as hostility or 'aggressive' speech - and let's face it the kind of 'aggressive behaviour' being referred to by SS is merely raised voices, not attempts to push, shove etc. - and who wouldn't react with fear and upset if they find the SS on the doorstep accusing them of allsorts against their children!
Absolutely, I think it would be more unusual for someone not to be angry in that sort of situation, especially as this sort of thing sometimes happens when you've come into contact with SS as there is some sort of problem or difficulty in your life.
 

Admin

Administrator
Revisiting this thread with the benefit of hindsight and a Supreme Court victory against the Scottish Government. The Haringey case led to a series of events, starting with home educators working with the instructing lawyer Allan Norman, who accurately predicted the outcome of the named person ruling in a consultation response submitted to the government in 2013.

Here is the sequence of events:

13 March 2013

Haringey judgment issued

Our HEF discussion: Haringey council tried to crush our family

Instructing solicitor was Allan Norman who highlights the disappearance of references to working together in safeguarding guidance. Appellant comments that Haringey Council procedures akin to Stalinism.

“Key element was failure to follow procedure (the checks and balances might have prevented escalation ) and the law which was clearly broken:

‘(76) The initial data-gathering exercise was unlawful in two respects: The initial request for data was sent to EF’s GP accompanied by the erroneous information that LBH was currently working with the family, that LBH was already undertaking a CYPS assessment and that confidential details including the possible presence of risk indicators of physical abuse, should be provided. In addition to these statements or implications being erroneous, no consent had been obtained from EF’s parents and it was not a justification to seek the information without consent that their identity was not at that time known since this statement was also untrue. The consent of the parents had not been obtained before the school was approached. Moreover, it was impermissible to post details of the referral on RIO to enable the school nurse to read them prior to obtaining the parents’ consent.
(77) These were serious departures from permissible practice and these actions were unlawful.’”
28 March 2013

ICO memo on GIRFEC ‘wellbeing’ information sharing circulated

The GIRFEC Programme Board and Ken MacDonald, the Assistant Information Commissioner for Scotland (ICO), have agreed a short guidance paper which dispels the common misconception that the Data Protection Act (1998) is a reason not to share information.

[Runs contrary to newly-issued Haringey ruling, did they not notice?]
8 April 2013

Information sharing between services – guidance and clarity

Letter from Martin Crewe*, Chair of the Getting it right for every child Programme Board, c/o Life Chances Unit, Children’s Rights and Wellbeing:

Dear Community Planning Partnership Managers

I am writing to you in my capacity as Chair of the Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC) Programme Board because I want to share an important clarification about information sharing between services.

The GIRFEC Programme Board and Ken MacDonald, the Assistant Information Commissioner for Scotland (ICO), have agreed a short guidance paper which dispels the common misconception that the Data Protection Act (1998) is a reason not to share information.

It will be important reading for:

Professionals who work with children and young people
Professionals who work with adults who impact on the lives
Senior managers and data controllers
Information sharing between services is vital to ensure that our children’s life chances are maximised, and that Scotland is the best place to grow up in.

Whilst the ICO in its capacity as a regulator does issue substantial penalties for breach Data Protection breaches, they emphasised these penalties are aimed at systemic failures and not practitioners making good faith decisions to share information in the best interests of children.

The paper tells you how to balance concerns about ‘fair processing’ with making the decision to share: please circulate it around chief officers within your Community Planning Partnership.

If you need further advice, please contact Boyd McAdam, Head of the Better Life Chances Unit at the Scottish Government on 0131 244 5320.

Martin Crewe

Attached – Information sharing between services – guidance from Information Commissioner and the GIRFEC Programme Board

INFORMATION SHARING BETWEEN SERVICES:

There is currently some lack of clarity in practice about when it is permissible to share information and when it isn’t.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that compliance with the Data Protection Act (1998) is being used as a reason not to share information between services even though there may be a concern about a child or young person’s well-being.

We want to be clear that the Data Protection Act (1998) is designed to assist information sharing, while also protecting the right of the individual to have their data fairly processed.

GIRFEC is based on eight indicators of well-being – safe, healthy, achieving, nurtured, active, respected, responsible and included. In many cases, a risk to well-being can be a strong indication that the child or young person could be at risk of harm if the immediate matter is not addressed.

Because GIRFEC is about early intervention and prevention it is very likely that information may need to be shared before a situation reaches crisis. In the GIRFEC approach, a child’s Named Person may have concerns about the child’s well-being, or other individuals or agencies may have concerns that they wish to share with the Named Person.

While it is important to protect the rights of individuals, it is equally important to ensure that our children are protected from risk of harm.

Where there is any risk of the child or young person being on a pathway that may lead to harm, the decision should always be to share.

The Data Protection Act (1998) says that an individual’s data should be processed fairly The issue of obtaining consent can be difficult and it should only be sought when the individual has real choice over the matter and the proposals should be clear about those circumstances which may necessitate processing without consent. Where required, consent should be fully informed and freely given. Where circumstances exist where consent may not be appropriate, the Act provides conditions to allow processing to proceed.

If information is likely to be shared to safeguard and promote a child’s well-being, the child, family third party should be told that information appropriate will be shared and consent should not be offered as an option.

It is very important that the practitioner uses all available information before they decide whether to share or not. Experience, professional instinct and other available information will all help with the decision making process.

If there is any doubt, then invariably the decision should be to share.

It’s vital that the practitioner records the decision they have made – including the rationale behind making it. If the decision were to be challenged, they would need to have an accountable record that they made the decision in good faith and in the child’s best interests.

Please share this information with employees, colleagues and partners, endorsing its content.

Information sharing between services is vital to ensure that our every child’s life chances are maximised, and we can describe Scotland as the best place to grow up.

Martin Crewe, Chair, GIRFEC Programme Board

Ken MacDonald, Assistant Information Commissioner Scotland

Further information: Boyd McAdam, Head of the Scottish Government’s Better Life Chances Unit
* Also chief executive of Barnardo's (part of the SHANARRI chorus line). Here he is failing to engage in debate with commenters, including our Elaine.
 
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