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Health, the role of the state and children

As if the threat of being bullied and labelled a fattie is not enough, there is now the risk that the state and its agents will take a child into care if that child is deemed “obese”. Over the last few days, the press has carried reports of how a young boy, weighing in at a powerful 14-stone (196 lbs/ 89 kg), narrowly avoided such a fate.

My first instinctive belief is that the state has no business telling us about what should be the shape of our butts. In the case of children, responsibility lies with the parents, and there has to be real and sustained proof of neglect and abuse to trigger any form of intervention. In nearly all cases, my view is that the “cure” of taking an “obese” child into care will far worse than the supposed problem. Yes, extreme obesity, as measured in terms of excess fat vis a vis overall body shape, is not something to laugh at or dismiss. Although I have been lucky and born with a slim physique, I still try to build on that good fortune by keeping fit. There’s no doubt that many people in Britain are unhealthily overweight. Lack of exercise, sedentary lifestyles and the demise of hard, physical labour all have an effect. But while I would encourage folk to look after themselves, ultimately, what people choose to do with their lives is their business, not mine. In the case of this youngster, realising that he is overweight should be incentive enough to do something about it. His parents may not be the brightest lights in the harbour, but from what I have read, they plainly adore their son, although they probably could exert rather a stricter control over his diet.

As we have also found in so many cases, paternalistic state actions often start to “protect the kids” and end up spreading towards adults as well. I hope this young man learns to take pride in his own health and can look back in future to this time in his life as one where he learned to control his appetite and also realise how dangerous the state has become. There are plenty worse things than having a large tummy, that is for sure.

37 comments to Health, the role of the state and children

  • Quenton

    I watched a CNN report today and what this mother is doing and it is most definately criminal.

    Watching a male child with breasts larger than those of the late Anna Nicole Smith scarf down plate after plate of food while his “mother” sits there unconcerned was sickening. Her defense? She just couldn’t bear to tell the “little” darling that magic word “no!”.

    It is unaccptable (and usually criminal) for a parent to intentionally allow their child to come to harm . I don’t want the government to regulate the food intake of people any more than most people here would, but this isn’t about proper dieting, it’s about common-sense parenting. No one would complain if a parent gave their child Tylenol, but would scream bloody murder if it was discovered they had intentionally let that same child take an entire bottle. This is no different. It’s ok for a parent to let their child have some pizza, or a burger, or potato chips (crisps). But to let them have multiple servings of all of that in the same day, every day?

    Of course there will be the great debate about personal liberty vs. state control over our lives here and other places. The proper course of action should be for people to clamour for state intervention using existing laws, not new ones. Yeah, yeah “the state has no right…blah…blah…”. If an adult want’s to gorge himself on 10,000 calories a day then let him. Let a parent do this to an 8 year old? That’s not Libertarian, it’s fucking madness.

  • Foobarista

    The problem here is state-run health care. If the state has a vested financial interest in health questions, it will end up doing this sort of thing.

    It’s easy to argue that this sort of thing “should be illegal”, but this is classic slippery-slope territory and one should err on the side of giving people the freedom to screw up versus nanny-state protection from their stupidity.

  • John_R in WA

    “extreme obesity, as measured in terms of excess fat vis a vis overall body shape, is not something to laugh at”

    Yes it is something to be laughed at. If we called ’em fatties more often and mocked them for their fatness, then maybe there’d be an incentive to slim down. Instead we treat obesity like it’s some disease rather than a choice. Yes, I know this is a child, but why should that stop us laughing like drains at him? Mockery may work where do-gooding obviously has not.

  • Sunfish

    From the opposite end:

    A few years ago, a couple in New York were convicted of child abuse or neglect. The factual basis of the crime were that they fed the child a strict vegan diet from birth, and as a result the child was severely underweight and suffered from various nutrient-deficiency-related diseases.

    Same thing? Is state action okay in one instance but not the other?

    Personally, I lean towards telling the mother of the fat kid, “I’m not sure you’ve actually broken any laws, but you’re a goddamn idiot and you’re killing your f***ing kid.”

  • Some good points.

    Yes, child abuse is probably one of those areas that there will be most debate amongst libertarians. I mean, at what point do we start deciding that people can do A in raising a child but not B. I am honestly not smart enough to decide… but then again I don’t know who is.

    Anyway I think that if things like this are abhorrent to people, a far more effective means of changing behavior is through public shaming/vocal opposition from the community. While calling someone a fatty probably isn’t the best way to encourage a healthy lifestyle, having strong individuals who form into strong communities and families can produce marvelous results just by shaming and encouraging one another.

    I think the next big step will be the govt starts threatening to take children away from parents who refuse to give their children ritalin.

  • Midwesterner

    Either there is no limit to what a parent may do to a child, or there is some limit.

    If there is some limit, it needs to be consistent, predictable and objective. Everybody, regardless of their personal feelings on any given issue, has to know where the line is. Otherwise it is arbitrary ‘justice’.

  • The mother is not a good parent, granted. But implicit in this debate is the assumption that the State would be a better one. Nothing in the history of State childcare in Britain would suggest that. I feel sorry for the boy, but he is probably better off with his idiot mother than with Social Services.

  • The mother is not a good parent, granted. But implicit in this debate is the assumption that the State would be a better one. Nothing in the history of State childcare in Britain would suggest that. I feel sorry for the boy, but he is probably better off with his idiot mother than with Social Services.

  • The mother is not a good parent, granted. But implicit in this debate is the assumption that the State would be a better one. Nothing in the history of State childcare in Britain would suggest that. I feel sorry for the boy, but he is probably better off with his idiot mother than with Social Services.

  • Michael Taylor

    OK, so no doubt obesity is a health risk. So, and more urgently, is anorexia. I have yet to hear of government proposing to take anorexics into “state care”.

    If this were purely, or even mainly, a health issue, you wouldn’t have this discrepancy. This suggests to me that what’s going on here is simply and only the demonisation of the mother as a slattern and/or a slob. And this demonisation then being used to legitimise the state’s proposed kidnapping of the child. Frankly, I’m disgusted.

    First they came for the fatties. . . fill in the rest yourself.

  • Michael Taylor

    I’d like to add a couple of points. First, I’m pretty shocked at the eagerness with which Samizdatans represented here are willing to concede the concept that the state may know best in this case.

    Secondly – and I’m sorry, I can’t help this – I’d really question the whole socialogical agenda behind this story. It just fits in so neatly with two very nasty tendencies in British politics: first, the public contempt in which our current government holds “white trash”. And secondly, the nasty playground bully sociology which evidently formed a controlling principle of this govt via Alistair Campbell. Let’s pick on the fat kid.

    In the white trash slattern mother / fatso boy, we have a pretty perfect expression of these two very nasty aspects of our government.

    In my view, the right reaction to this story is to ask why the state broadcaster is complicit in demonising these particular individuals; and to tell ministers that they should concentrate on dealing with the complete eff-up of everything they touch before they start proposing to break-up families.

    And if that fails, start campaigning for the fatsos in government – Prescott, Reid, Brown, and Clarke for starters – to be shipped off to some televised fat farm until they’re an “acceptable” shape.

  • Matt

    Doesn’t it go against previous pronouncements that ‘family is the most important thing’, to not provide support so that the family can stay together?

    Also stories of this nature are symptoms of a greater disease within society, a malaise that came about with the market fundamentalism of the 1980’s and the dehumanisation of the under-priviledged.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Michael, good points all. Note that I said that outsiders should only intervene if they can prove sustained abuse and assaults on a kid. Even then, it is probably better done not by a state agency to intervene.

    I suspect that a lot of the current nonsense is about humiliating ordinary people. I watched the BBC’s coverage of the issue this morning and the smugness appalled me.

    Teasing fat kids might make them change behaviour, but it is usually vicious and bullying happens to be a sort of bugbear of mine. I loathe it and loathe bullies, of all kinds.

  • manuel II paleologos

    I agree with Michael. A disappointing reaction from the samizdatistas.

    Local authorities can barely nurture hardy perennial shrubs, let alone teenagers.

    There’s an acceptable limit to the government’s power, and it’s miles away from telling me what and how much to feed my kids, and taking them away if I don’t comply.

  • If the mother is receiving state benefits for the upkeep of the child but is clearly overspending on him, then I suggest a cut or removal of such benefits as clearly she is not short of money.

    As for the government attack on white trash, well it is similar to Hollywood’s attack on Brits – the only remaining PC target. It also has shades of self-loathing.

    I firmly believe that 80-90% of feckless idlers making up “white trash” would reform themselves within 5-10 years if they were not subjected to the Welfare State and all its twisted values and motivations. The targetting of individuals is a way of diverting attention from the systemic problems that the Socialist dogma keeps in place.

  • fjfjfj

    I bet the boy grows to be a giant and does very well materially as a consequence.

  • mike

    “…outsiders should only intervene if they can prove sustained abuse and assaults on a kid. Even then, it is probably better done not by a state agency to intervene.”

    If outside intervention in family affairs (at some undefined point) is OK, who should this be performed by if not the State?

  • mike

    Incidentally, the kid doesn’t look that bad to me – I’ve seen fatter kids than him before.

  • The only interventions that the state should make is to do nothing. Literally nothing, no benefits, no healthcare, no support of any kind. Once the kid dies and the mother is heartbroken, she can then be told ‘You did this, no-one else. You overfed your child and he died as a result. Now we’re going to charge you with that crime.’
    This whole issue harks back to what I was saying in a comment on another post; it is not the state’s responsibility to police every action of its citizens, when you take individual responsibility away from people you get situations like this. If, and when, the kid dies then the mother should be charged if it can be proved that her treatment of him was a contributing factor. No matter how long it is before that happens.
    I don’t foresee a long and healthy life for this poor child. I predict that he will have all the sorts of psychological problems associated with having an overweening mother, prolonged bullying, and the lack of self-esteem and self-control that comes from both these things.
    I pity him, and hope that his mother comes to her senses, (though I wouldn’t be surprised if she kept feeding him just for the notoriety)

  • Johnathan Pearce

    mike, mandrill: in the past, vigilant neighbours, churches and whatever might start to loudly note that a kid was growing into the size of an elephant. If the kid got seriously ill, words would be said. The kid might not be taken into care, but people would notice.

    I put the question the other way: if a kid had been consistently beaten up by his parents, was covered in bruises, then sooner or later someone would want to take legal action. At least I hope that someone would do so.

  • mike

    “If the kid got seriously ill, words would be said.”

    I don’t count that as outside ‘intervention’ since there is no use of force. Persuasion yes.

    On someone (presumably a relative) taking legal action – that is still the use of the State and its’ laws (or at least their attempted use). I’d like to think a relative would have more power to persuade the parents to change their habits than the threat of the law being used against them. If it were a neighbour proposing legal action – well aside from being unlikely, how is that different from intervention by a state agency?

    On the comparison to a kid being beaten up by his parents, isn’t that somewhat different from merely over-feeding? One involves actual physical violence, the other is merely the absence of stricter diet controls. They seem catagorically different to me.

  • This sounds to me like the replacement of social with political interaction that Perry always talks about. Instead of neighbours, friends and family taking an interest and telling this mother to sort herself out, everyone concerned expects and waits for the government to take action. I seem to remember even the mother herself being quoted as blaming social services for not intervening sooner.

    We have got to a stage where everybody instinctively looks to the government for the solution to all problems. It will take generations for this paradigm to shift.

  • anyonebutblair

    Ok so the kids fat and his mother is a waste of space parentally.
    But since when do we condone the forcible appropriation and internment of children into the inefficient clutches of the state because the child is fat.
    Fatness is the least of his worries when “cared” for by the state. Sickening abuse, lack of care, drugs and educational failure await him from our “caring” welfare state. Whatever his mother is, he is much better off with her. Thankfully he has not been “interned”.

    Another point. You’ll notice that the health fascists sorry lobby have:
    1) dealt with smoking – check : to be banned in public places in June in the UK (laughably frantically now trying to scientifically show the linkage between passive smoking and lung cancer, and disprove the theory that is forces the smoking into the home damaging resident children!)
    2) now targetting poor diet and obesity through banning advertising, product labelling (this food will make you fat traffic lights) and internment of fat children

    You’ll notice that they don’t seem to be attacking the one key public health issue in the UK and particularly in northern England and Scotland. Drinking.
    You never hear a peep about banning drinking or taking actions to curtail it. In fact the government has (correctly) liberalised drinking regulation to make it easier to drink. I wonder why?
    Would it be too cynical to suggest that the large multi-national drinks companies and large pub/bar owning companies both have very well financed and efficient lobbying organisations, provide a huge amount of tax revenue through corporate taxation, duty and vat on drinks sold and local government finance through business rates. And not least both are well known contributors to the Labour party.

  • mike

    I don’t think the State should have any business telling me what I can or cannot eat, drink, smoke, sniff, read etc.

    Yet what business do my neighbours have in telling me what I can or cannot eat, drink, smoke, sniff, read etc? And if legal action is raised as a possibility, then that is the use of the State and is every bit as political as if a State agency forced their way into my home to haul me off to the courts.

  • anyonebutblair: that’s interesting, but do you think McDonald’s or Philip Morris have less influence than Seagram?

  • Julian Taylor

    Unfortunately in the UK we live in a state that feels it has precisely the duty, using the magical ‘the will of the majority’ catchphrase, to say how you must raise your children, drive your car, eat, drink, sleep, (not) smoke and so on. To paraphrase Roald Dahl, “Socialism doesn’t have to have a point. That’s why it’s Socialism”.

    In the latest state terrorism saga John Reid announces
    that his goon squads police units now want the remit to be able to confiscate cellphone handsets directly out of the hands of drivers, in additon to the £1000 fine and the 3 penalty licence points (UK drivers lose their licence after reaching 12 penalty points). Despite always using a bluetooth headset now I really am looking forward to the day a policeman tries that one on me.

    Sometimes I think this country gets more and more like a Terry Gillam movie every day.

  • Nick M

    Mid brings up a very good point. There has to be a clearly defined limit. Without that I remember the utter horror of what went on in Middlesborough a few years back.

    On a previous thread somebody (might’ve been Perry) dismissed the idea that “it takes a village to raise a child”. While in the context (a quote from Hillary Clinton) I’d probably agree with the rebuttal I do think it does take a community to raise a child. I don’t mean this in anyway to mean social workers and the ilk, just all the other adults that child will meet: extended family, neighbours, teachers, the local church etc. I used to swap Speccy games with a (semi) retired bloke down the street and I was told-off by a great many individuals and in a sense I regarded all adults as being equivalent to each other and superior to me (most of the time).

    Too many kids these days show no respect to unrelated adults because long gone are the days when you’d give them a telling off and then their parents would do the same. The sort of places I’ve lived, if you tell a kid off or in anyway interact with them you’re quite likely to get filled in by the parents for being a “kiddy-fiddler”.

    I think interaction with other adults is vital for a kid’s development and we can’t all be Gary Glitter.

    I think too many kids today are treated like “royal prisoners”, denied freedom yet protected to ridiculous extents.

    Ultimately, the blame devolves to the parents. There is a single mother across the street and when her rellies used to turn up from Liverpool (where else?) all the adults used to get wrecked and the kids ran absolutely wild. They kicked a football against the front window all afternoon once. I was trying to code HTML at the time and it really got my goat. Eventually they propelled the ball through the window above the front door, showering glass right through the hall. What did the “responsible adults” do? They laughed and threatened to “fucking kill” me if I didn’t give the ball back. My girlfriend (now wife) went to the corner shop and was water-bombed to much hilarity. I have never in my entire life wished the UK had something like the 2nd Ammendment more than that Sunday afternoon because we would have had the Julius St Massacre. Instead I called the cops. The cops arrived and a rather feisty WPC put the fear of God up them. She said they (the adults) were all “off their tits – and not just on booze” and she was itching to get a search warrant.

    It does take a community to raise a child. It also takes parents who are prepared to accept that.

  • Yet what business do my neighbours have in telling me what I can or cannot eat, drink, smoke, sniff, read etc?

    If you act like a prat, your neighbours can and indeed should tell you to your face you are acting like a prat. If your behaviour pisses them off, they should be allowed to piss you off. And you should also be free to tell them to bugger off and mind their own business and bear the social consequences of that. That is exactly what civil society is all about, not using the the of violence (i.e. laws) to make you do things. Civil society ≠ state… do not confuse the two.

  • ian

    I don’t think the State should have any business telling me what I can or cannot eat, drink, smoke, sniff, read etc. [Mike above]

    This mother is abusing her child. Nevertheless, the general consensus here seems to be that he should be allowed to die from heart disease rather than allow anyone – state or otherwise – to intervene.

    Once the kid dies and the mother is heartbroken, she can then be told ‘You did this, no-one else. You overfed your child and he died as a result. Now we’re going to charge you with that crime.’ [Mandrill above]

    On that argument then any form of child abuse is acceptable because it is a greater evil for the state to intervene. Are people here really arguing that?

  • Midwesterner

    There is something Perry and Nick have hit on that I know well first hand and didn’t realize. It is regarding community to raise a child.

    My parents were always deeply involved in their church. Part of their role in later years was to intervene in other, generally young family’s, personal business. When a situtation arose like the one that brought about this article (the morbidly obese child), either mom or dad or some other church member would approach the parent(s) and help them through to resolution. My dad counciled one father of four for an hour or two a week for several years. My mother also counciled the mother. This involved many family and household matters a young family faces. Apparently neither of the two had good role models growing up for them to emulate. That man was a guest speaker at my father’s funeral several decades by which time he himself was also retired.

    Much of their counciling was helping young families sort out budget and debt problems. My mother would help them build records, make budgets, and most importantly, guide and support them through wise spending choices.

    There were also cases where children stayed at our house while their parents were working through matters. Additionally, my parents were for a time state approved foster parents and I had, through the state system, two foster brothers from abusive homes while I was in high school. The cases where my parents cared for or arranged other parents of children the same age, to care for children so their parents could resolve their problems with out the further stress of the children were rare, always voluntary, and to my knowledge never involved abuse.

    These interventions were always voluntarily accepted. Perhaps my parents and their church chose well or tacitly assigned interveners well, but those being given help always prefered to accept the busybody than quit the church community. My impression on the rare occasions I had any knowledge, was that the couples desperately welcomed arbitration and advice. Interesting situations sometimes arose like one where my dad had counciled someone, and himself later went to that person for guidance. As I recall, one of the simple things that came from that returned advice was that my dad began taking my mom out on dates. Funny how simple solutions can be sometimes.

    What is important to make clear about this is that the interventions could be refused, but if the problems were bad enough, somebody may be asked to leave the church community. A form of shunning I suppose.

  • Pa Annoyed

    In all of this, has it ocurred to anyone to ask why this kid is fat, when most kids are not? I don’t think it’s as simple as parental indulgence – the normal reaction is to stop feeling hungry when you’ve eaten, and experiments on students when they were asked to eat as much as they could (what a job!) discovered that the loss of appetite kept their weight within bounds.

    Appetite and the recent increase in the prevalence of obesity are not currently understood by science. It would appear there is something wrong with the kid, and the alternatives appear to be for him to suffer constant hunger, or to get fat. I don’t see why overeating is necessarily any less likely to be an eating disorder than undereating. I’m not sure that the latter is necessarily any worse parenting than the former; it depends whether you value quality or quantity of life more.

    Whatever the case may be; if it cannot be treated then they should be informed in gory detail of the consequences of the alternatives open to them, offered what help is available, and then left to get on with it. And I’d be less inclined to discount the child’s own choices and wishes over their life as not ‘legally responsible’ than most.

    If a person freely chooses a lifestyle that will kill them, that’s their business. Whether smoking, or hang gliding over volcanoes, or speaking truth to tyrants.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Yet what business do my neighbours have in telling me what I can or cannot eat, drink, smoke, sniff, read etc? And if legal action is raised as a possibility, then that is the use of the State and is every bit as political as if a State agency forced their way into my home to haul me off to the courts.

    Mike, the first part of the sentence should be answered with a “no”. You are an adult and can mess up your life how you want. Having been advocating libertarian ideas longer than I care to remember, I hardly need to remind myself of that, nor you.

    The issue here is about minors, about small children. Not all libertarians believe that parents can do what the heck they like to their kids, although on practical grounds, I regard the option of state interference as worse than the supposed problem. But sustained mistreatment and neglect of small children is something that laws exist to stop. A child is not a piece of personal property, like a suit or motorcar. It is not much consolation to be told that if a kid dies, that is punishment enough. One would like to think that we don’t have to learn about the dangers of child abuse by reading about lots of deaths. Nick M’s point is well taken.

    Like I said, I believe the traditional structures of civil society – neighbours, churches, voluntary groups – are a better guard than the state. But for once, I think that the idea that parents can treat their kids however they want short of murder or violent assault is a point that needs to be demonstrated, not assumed. Kids have rights too.

    Raising a child is a major responsibility, and if parents abuse their kids and fail to give them decent nutrition and damage their health, I don’t think such parents should emerge scot-free. This is where the old points about “stigma” come in: parents who were regarded as abusive and bad were shunned by “respectable” society. “Respectability” is now a word that is sneered at. But the Victorians were smarter than we are: they realised that social forces like moral disapproval were a far better check on bad behaviours than the intrusive state.

  • Pa Annoyed

    “Not all libertarians believe that parents can do what the heck they like to their kids…,”

    I didn’t think any libertarians believe parents can do what they like to their kids, or to anyone else, for that matter.

    The tricky issue here is that it is the kid that wants to overeat, and we’re debating whether it is the right of parents and/or nanny state to stop him against his will. If the parents were strapping him down and forcing food in his gob to make him fat, that would clearly be abuse. Is strapping him down to stop him eating also abuse, or “tough love”?

    For an adult, most of us I think would say everyone has the right to kill themselves. For children, many think it is justifiable to restrict their liberty in their own interests. The usual argument is that children are incapable of understanding the consequences of their actions, although I suspect in this case it wouldn’t be that hard a concept to explain, and that they are unable to balance immediate emotional wants and their long term interests, which is a more apposite point in this case.

    If you’ll recall, I raised the question of children’s rights on a previous thread. My point there was that we use chronological age as a proxy for matters that are not, and we believe should not be measured, which is unjust. I also drew a parallel between dependency on welfare and on parents. (And asked, should the nanny state act as “parent” to welfare beneficiaries?)

    In this case my question is: what is our actual reason for restricting children’s liberty? (And why does it not apply to adults?)

  • Telcontar

    I’d like to comment on what Jonathon wrote to end this post:

    “As we have also found in so many cases, paternalistic state actions often start to “protect the kids” and end up spreading towards adults as well.”

    I fully agree with that. Here might be why they tend to be connected: even though this case is nominally about a child, the State is wresting control from the parents. If the State has the power to seize control of the boy, then that power pretty easily can be logically expanded to all things that adults have stewardship over (their bodies, their property, etc.)

    One quibble with some of the commenters: Just because the boy is going to be seized doesn’t mean that the State necessarily will provide for his care and upbringing. A libertarian-ish position can be conceived in which this care is privatized.

  • mike

    “If you act like a prat…. Civil society ≠ state… do not confuse the two.”

    Oh dear! I personally don’t behave like that (most of the time), and I didn’t intend to seem to confuse the State with civil society – I have been reading this blog long enough to know the difference, so I should have expressed myself better.

    What I was trying to get at was the following:

    1) if we think there ought to be a limit to how parents can treat their children (as Jonathan says – and I agree), then this needs to be defined – actual physical violence along with not feeding one’s children would surely fit within such a definition – but would overfeeding? I think not – but where is the boundary?

    2) I agree that the consequences of civil society are a preferred deterrent against child abuse – but are they enough? I doubt it. If, as Jonathan and Pa say, children have rights and there are laws to uphold those rights, then is the use of the courts by relatives or neighbours preferable to the operation of a State agency? Both involve the use of the State. But why should one be preferable to another? On the one hand, a State agency – even if it did a generally good job – is likely to be bossy and intrusive and generally bad news from a libertarian point of view. On the other hand, the use of the courts would be slow, possibly expensive and so not good news from the point of view of a child suffering from abusive parents. So, if we are going to allow some form of State intervention here – which is preferable and and how do you weigh the two options?

  • nick

    When you take State money to finance your kids, you allow the State to dictate child rearing to you. When you expect the State to pay for your son’s medical treatment, then you allow the State to dictate activities for your son and interventions in regard to your son, to reduce the cost to the State. The Libertarian position, I would have thought, would be to advocate non-reliance on the State. Opposition to intervention by the State then naturally follows.

    Parents who do not rely on the State for benefits, and mistreat their child, should be judged according to the laws of the land (law and order being one of the only areas where libertarians countenance State involvement).

  • David

    I’ve personally witnessed (as a relative) the effect of State intervention on a family that made the mistake of having a row in public that involved the police then social services and having two children put into care. 18 months ago I would have scoffed at anyone who believes that Social Services are there for the children. I have seen

    1. Illegal removal of a child by a social worker who would not believe (or check) that a family court order could be stayed by a high court judge. There was a big fine for that department over that.

    2. Spending a lot of money (a weeks accommodation and travel of several hundred miles to dig into the past of the parents in order to find something bad)

    3. Sending the parents to an assessment centre (cost £18,000 per assessment) to assess their parenting skills. Not surprisingly, hardly anyone ever passes there- if they did perhaps social services would possibly not use them. Interestingly, this has been discredited in this case by an independent assessment.

    4. Social services unable to believe that anyone who stand up to them through the legal system and then acting in a way that could only be described as Machaevellian to try and win. for instance – one of the children is very bright. Hi school teacher was told by social services to deny his brightness in evidence to a family court. However she admitted this in private a few weeks later.

    5. The family court does not require proof that would stand up to a normal court’s scrutiny. An unsupported opinion by a social worker is regarded as evidence. When they try the same thing on in a high court (the High Court in Central London btw) , they got severely reprimanded and told to produce evidence or shut up. A comment from a barrister there was that she had never encountered Social Services behaving quite this way towards anyone before.

    Tragically, for families involved this sort of thing happens a lot. Why? Because Tony Blair indicated that he wanted more children adopted (in 2000 or 2001) and Social Services have an agenda to do this.

    This is ongoing btw so I can’t reveal too much now but I’m trying to persuade one of the parents to write a book on the whole thing, as you just would not believe that officialdom could act in such a frankly vindictive manner.

    Not all officialdom I hasten to add- there are one or two good guys as well.