Final Response Scottish Governments Petition Number 1673

Final Response to Scottish Governments Petition Number 1673.



Mo Dhachaidh,

South Road,

Garmouth,

By Fochabers,

Morayshire.

IV32 7LX.

Tel 01343 870310

28^th July, 2018.

The Convener,

Public Petitions Committee,

Scottish Parliament,

Edinburgh,

EH99 1SP.

Dear Convener,

*Petition Number 1673*

Please find attached my response to the submissions by Social Work 
Scotland and Scottish Children's Reporter Administration in relation to 
the request for comments from them by your Committee on 10^th May, 2018, 
in relation to Petition 1673.

Yours faithfully,

James A Mackie.

*Response by James A Mackie to submissions by Social Works Scotland and 
the Scottish Children Reporter Administration to Petition Number 1673.*

**
Fully supported in this by the Scottish Dadscare Charity www.dadscare.org.uk

1/This response has been compiled from comments by mothers, family 
members, advocates, lawyers and professionals in child protection, all 
of whom have experienced firsthand the points in Petition 1673.

I have knowledge of the misuse/misinterpretation of both legislation and 
guidelines by “professionals” in order to take children in to care for 
periods of years, often for life.There is great dismay as to why Who 
Dares? Scotland (a major contributor to the Independent Care Review 
Group) and Circle Scotland failed to respond to your request for 
comments.

There are concerns over the personal interest/involvement in 
Children's Hearings by Rona Mackay, MSP. Should she exclude herself from 
further discussion/decisions on Petition 1673 or not.

2/Nobody disputes that in some cases children need to be taken into care 
and children may have better outcomes than if left at home. 

The concerns are about high numbers being taken into care (with the majority being 
denied any form of access/communication with mothers and family – all 
contrary to the Legislation and Government guidelines) unnecessarily 
leading to major and serious long term outcomes for children and their 
families.The terms assault, abuse and neglect are key elements in every 
application to Sheriff Courts or Children's Hearings.A family member 
grabbing an errant child by the clothing to prevent that child causing 
serious injury to themselves or another is classed as assault.

Parents who shout at an errant child to stop them running into harm e.g. a 
roadway are accused of verbal abuse.Failing to iron the clothes of a 2 
and 4 year old has been listed as a sign of neglect. 

Parents and family members who question a social worker are automatically classed as being 
non-engaging, therefore a threat to the child.

3/Within politicians, every part of the “Corporate Parent” group and 
charities (some of whom have a large commercial and financial interest 
in the status quo) there is an institutional and engrained belief that 
every mother is a threat to a child, therefore that child needs to be 
taken into care.There are over 60 Government and Local Government 
agencies and bodies as Corporate Parents responsible for “looked after 
children” The public question why so many organisationsare involved in 
child protection – organisations such as Scottish Fire and Rescue for one.

4/In her summing up on 10^th May, 2018, the Convener, *Joanne Lamont, 
MSP* hit the nail firmly on the head when she said clearly/“…..//in 
relation to the petition, we would want to look at whether we are 
inappropriately bringing children into care because there is not enough 
support or because there is a mindset that says that that is the 
solution.”/*Brian Whittle, MSP*said *“…..*/in raising the issue, the 
petitioner continues to keep child protection at the forefront. 

I also agree with you, convener, in that there are some issues around early 
intervention that still have to be addressed.It would not do any harm to 
continue to flag that and investigate it.” /*Michelle Ballantyne, MSP 
*said*/“/*/Because this is quite a complicated area, which spreads into 
what we are doing on vulnerable two-year-olds and the early years, there 
is a big conversation to be had about how we support families and how we 
prevent children from ending up in the hearings system and in 
care.”/*Maggie Mellon* in a previous submission to the Scottish 
Parliament, said :- “/children are often more harmed by separation than 
by anything they were suffering at home/.”

5/The question in child protection is why are so many children (1.6% to 
2% of all children) in Scotland are being “looked after” by Corporate 
Parents.

The Lord Clyde Orkney enquiry of 1991/92 was the closest legal 
enquiry into how children were taken into care.That case was based on 
accusations of sexual abuse within a group of families.Lord Clyde made a 
total of 185 recommendations, most of which have been ignored in child 
protection since then. In his report he made many comments and 
suggestions about improving Children’s Hearings.

The Rt Hon Lady Ann Smith enquiry is about abuse in care that occurred some 30 to 50 years 
ago. It is historic and has no relationship to current practices.

6Much is said about the current Independent Care Review Group.

It is not “independent”.Members are either employed by organisationsthat are 
heavily involved in child protection or have been appointed by 
organisations involved in the care of “looked after children”.

Among the members, three organisations are under complaints investigation 
nationally, both internally and externally under civil law for the way 
they have dealt with families and child protection matters.Over 60% of 
the secretariat including the secretariat leader all have back grounds 
in child protection.Therefore there are no members who are completely 
independent of child protection, particularly “looked after 
children”.

Considering that all child protection matters are governed by 
legislation, it is strange that no fully trained legal person is a 
member of the Review Group.Further concerns are there are no 
representation by mothers or families where their children have been and 
are still in care.

Having made a 200 page plus submission to the 
Independent Review Group, met with the Secretariat Leader and studied 
all their publications and enquiry directions, the remit for the 
Independent Care Review Group is purely to look at the situation of 
children once in care.The Independent Care Review Group does not have 
the remit, qualified persons or resources to carry out the enquiry 
requested by Petition 1673 into how so many children end up in care.

7/Over the years there have been a number of “independent” reviews and 
enquiries into all aspects of child protection but excluding how 
children came into the system, on what grounds they were taken into care 
and the psychological, social and financial outcomes for the child, 
parents and family.

Each review/enquiry was carried out by individual 
organisationswithin child protection.Each organisation appointed its own 
committee members, set the remit, protocols and procedures for the 
review/enquiry.

All were set up to look at procedures within the system, 
not the outcome for children and parents. Most “evidence” was gathered by 
the use of questionnaires designed by the organisation, all of which 
were worded to give the response the organisation wanted – i.e. 
confirmation of their mode of operation. 

The net result is the situation 
we are in today where more and more children are ending up “looked 
after” not at home while legislation, Court judgement and Government 
guidelines are total ignored.

8/Social Work Scotland refers to the Child Protection System Review. 

It was commissioned by Mark McDonald MSP, Minister for Childcare and Early 
Years, to examine the role and function of Child Protection Committees; 
the use of Child Protection Registers and Child Protection Case 
Conferences; and the efficacy of Significant and Initial Case Reviews 
and to recommend what changes or improvements may be needed to these 
underpinning processes and structures in order to protect children more 
effectively. 

The Review did not examine why children came into care, it 
only reviewed current practices and took evidence from 
“professionals”. 

The report does not indicate any contact with children 
and families on the taking of children into care.It did not cover any of 
the main issues within Petition 1673. The report reinforces and imbeds 
current practice in the current system of “looked after Children”. The 
recently published report “Falling Through The Cracks” by Kezia Dugdale. 
MSP, should be read and understood by all Corporate Parents.

It identifies 84 children who have died in care in the past 10 years.

9/In a system where mothers are being accused of abuse, neglect and 
assault on their children, it is both morally wrong and a clear breach 
of Article 6, therefore Article 8 of the ECHR to say that it is correct 
that the child protection system should be carried out under a civil 
legal system rather than at the higher standards of a criminal Court. 

To remove legal representation from Children's Hearings would bea very 
serious breach of ECHR and would give Corporate Parents a far stronger 
control over the lives of Looked after Children, many of whom 
alreadyhave serious outcomes.Each child and parent is legally entitled 
to representation at a Hearing. 

To remove them would leave very emotional 
and psychological traumatised mothers and parents with no help 
whatsoever against what many lawyers and others describe as social 
workers reports that are full of mis and dis information and lies. There 
are no statistics available to show how many mothers/parents have been 
dealt with under criminal law, surely a much required step to prove that 
the child needs taken into care. 

Even when cleared in a criminal investigation, the original complaint is still used against the mother 
to have children taken into care.SCRA state in their response that Local 
Authorities have a lack of resources to provide proper family 
support.They state that many LA’s do not have any family support 
services available, hence reason more children are taken into care.

That can only be classed as a major disgrace.However, unable to provide 
family support, Local Authorities are prepared to pay high sums of money 
to Foster Carers (who have to be registered as self-employed with 
HMRC). 

Foster parents are paid between £11000.00 and £36,000, per child 
per year plus other expenses.It is estimated that Foster carers in 
Scotland are paid between £240 million and £430 million per year from 
public funds. The higher sum would employ approximately 9000 
professionally trained family officers to support families in their own 
home.

10/Between the different Corporate Parent Groups, classification of 
children and reference titles are confusing and misleading by 
name.Supervision Orders, Looked after Children and Referrals to Hearings 
are all words used to describe the same figures.Social Works Scotland 
website shows that in 2016/17 there were 14897 children “looked after” 
and a further 2631 children on Child Protection Orders.

A total of 16780 Of “looked after children” 3766 (25%) were looked after at home, 
down from 43% in 2007. No figures are available for residency of children 
on the Child Protection Orders.“Legally secure permanence’, has 
increased every year since 2012, and now stand at 2,064, a 4% increase 
on 2016.

11/Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration figures for the same year 
show the following. 9996 on compulsory Supervision Orders of which 4486 
(45%) were at home.

Why is there such a discrepancy between the two 
organisations?Does any organisation know how many children are actually 
“looked after” at any one time and how many are with parents?SCRA 
statistics show 20% of these referred are offenders.The same statistics 
show that 75% of all referrals to Hearings are by the police.SCRA tend 
to base a lot of their statistics on “referral” numbers. 

That is completely misleading as one person can be referred on a number 
occasions and does not give a true figure of how many “looked after 
children” there are within the system.Both Social Works Scotland and 
Scottish Childrens Reporter Administration web pages provide very long 
complicated spread sheets of data that the layman has great difficulty 
trying to understand.

As Kezia Dugdale, MSP, states in her report, far 
too much information is not available as to the reality of children in 
care and afterwards.That is a major problem across all of child care.

*The real cause of problems within Child Protection in Scotland*

The centre of child protection in Scotland is the Children's Hearing.Set 
up in 1971 their remit was purely to dispose of juvenile offenders who 
had either admitted their guilt or had been found guilty in a Sheriff 
Court.The idea was to remove juveniles from the criminal court system 
and dispose of the cases in a more sympathetic and caring manner.

It allowed individuals to enter adult life without criminal convictions 
except in very serious cases. Panel members to the Hearings were and 
still are lay people.Their training was and is on how to run a 
Children's Hearing and what decisions they could make in dealing with 
juvenile offenders.They made their decisions on reports compiled and 
submitted by social workers.SCRA was and still is an administrative body 
tasked with the management/administration of Children's 
Hearings.

Children's Hearings had no remit or training in hearing 
evidence from social workers and the mother/parent to decide for 
themselves the merit of the allegations against the child/mother/parent.

Today,(47 years on) the situation is completely different but the 
remit, role and function of Children's Hearings has not changed.Since 
1971, the number of offending children to welfare children appearing in 
hearings has gone from 100% to 20%.

Social workers still produce and submit reports to the Panel Members and/or the Sheriff.In applications 
to Sheriff Courts, especially to have children taken into care or 
parental rights moved, the parents are very rarely informed in advance 
and submissions/reports are not submitted under oath.The “evidence” laid 
before the Sheriff by the Reporter is a social workers opinion of the 
situation.

No further enquiries are done or anybody representing the 
child and mother/or parents is asked for their opinion of the 
“evidence”.

The Sheriff does not have the opportunity to hear the 
child/mother/parents arguments or questioning of the information 
submitted to the Sheriff.

The child/mother/parents, because of the secrecy, do not have the opportunity to have legal representation at the 
Hearings which are always held in private and often out with the Sheriff 
Court.In one recent case, and only with the intervention of an MSP, a 
mother discovered that without her knowledge, a solicitor who had had no 
contact of any kind with the family, represented her in a Hearing.

The net result is that a Sheriff or Children's Panel have no option but 
follow the social workers report and make an order for the child to be 
taken into or kept in care.

Once a child has been taken into care through this process, there must 
be a “48 hour Hearing”.That is in front of a Children's 
Hearing.Depending on weekend days and public holidays the “48 hour” 
meeting may take upwards of 4 days. 

As said above, the Panel Members have no remit or training on hearing evidence from either side, whereby 
they can make a balanced decision. All they can do is make a decision on 
the reports submitted to the Sheriff by the social workers.

It should be borne in mind that children/mothers/parents are normally in a state of 
emotional and psychological trauma as a result of their children having 
being removed from the family (at any time of the day or night), have 
had very little chance to read the information given to them when the 
children are removed from the home or to instruct solicitors.

From the mother/parents viewpoint it is a case of “guilty until you prove your 
innocence”.In his report Lord Clyde states:- “/It is by no means clear 
that a Sheriff would feel particularly qualified to challenge at his own 
hand the combined opinion of professionals who had been consulted and 
the feeling that the decision is little more than an endorsement of a 
decision reached by others could well be experienced by a Sheriff as 
well as a Children's Hearing”./

The only information that a Children's Hearing receive for a Hearing is 
the report of the social workers.With such short notice given of the 
contents of the papers (3 days), very very few parents have the time and 
skills to challenge any of the contents.

As said, the Children's Hearing 
does not have the remit or training to sit as a judicial body receiving 
information/evidence from both parties and making a balanced 
judgement.

No minutes/records are kept of a Children's Hearing, only the 
final decision.Challenges to the contents of the social workers report 
are ignored and never recorded.The net result is that the social workers 
report is filed without amendments and goes unchallenged for future 
Hearings.

Neither Children’s Hearing Scotland or SCRA have procedures for 
dealing with complaints that information submitted to a Hearing is 
incorrect or even lies.

Children/mothers/parents when making such 
complaints are advised to take the complaint up with the Local 
Authority/other body.

It is the experience of mothers/parents/relevant 
persons that such complaints are denied by the Local Authority/other 
body and the complainant referred to the Scottish Public Services 
Ombudsman or appropriate authority.Only the procedures in handling the 
complaint can be examined.Even if procedures have been found to be 
incorrect, the original complaint cannot be reexamined.

Appeals to the Sheriff on a Children's Hearing Decision are held on procedural 
grounds. 

In some cases Sheriffs have refused to uphold an appeal on the 
grounds that there has been no written reason from the Children's 
Hearing as to how they came by their decision.

Social workers and Children's panel members have no training 
qualifications in a wide range of medical conditions including and 
particularly learning disabilities/difficulties.

Yet they continue to make decisions purely on their opinion.In upholding an Appeal on 1^st 
March, 2017, the Supreme Court ruled that in one case, decisions on the 
case in Scotland had been made purely on opinion with no evidence to 
back them up.

In his report Lord Clyde made many observations on the 
workings of Children's Hearings, most of which have been ignored.

There is no method/system whereby parents can challenge false reports to 
Children's Hearings and a Sheriff Court. 

The net result is an increasing number of “looked after children”.

For clarification of the operation of a Children's Hearing, the 
Petitions Committee may consider asking the Scottish Criminal Justice 
Council to produce a report on the current system, its compliance with 
current legislation and compatibility with the ECHR. 

In doingso the SCJC may interview families who have encountered the system rather than the 
professionals working within the system.

Dadscare charity agrees 100% and it is the most complete and honest
 reponse to date
-- 
James A Mackie (Agricultural),
Mo Dhachaid, South Road, Garmouth, Moray, IV32 7LX,
Tel 01343 870310.
www.jamesamackie.com