Trevor et al,
The first thing I advise anyone who is embroiled with Social Services is to get everything on file from all sources – Social Services, Health Services, school documentation, doctors’ documentation, credit report, CRB, police reports, the Children’s Database, etc. etc. It is absolutely amazing what is on file about individuals and their families, and how much is often either very wrong or woefully distorted.
It is a lot of effort and, yes, it is difficult and frustrating, and very often you will be fobbed off. The police reports are also often not complete. The only way to get a complete report is to apply to a state school for some position (because you can’t get the CRB report yourself, it has to be through an agency). The agency is then obliged to provide you with a copy. Very revealing…!
In our own case, our “User File” at Barnet Social Services was never provided to us, despite several formal letters as per the Data Protection Act. We were, however, allowed limited “access” to the file (which was edited), but only for a few hours at a time, and only when a social worker was available to supervise us. (I did manage to sneak in a small digital camera and got most of it that way.)
It was extraordinarily revealing how much rubbish was written about us, but stated as fact. And it was no wonder, therefore, that anyone who read the file (children’s guardian, psychologist, replacement social workers, etc.) became markedly prejudiced against us.
But most importantly, there was evidence buried in the file that countered several serious allegations against me. Allegations that determined whether I (or indeed my wife) was allowed to see our children unsupervised or not. (We were not allowed any unsupervised “contact” because of how “manipulative” I was. And my wife, being so totally “under my thumb”, couldn’t be trusted to prevent me from seeing our children if she had them unsupervised. It really became quite ridiculous.)
I was accused of fraud. Of criminally forging a change to an agreement made with a social worker at the beginning of the proceedings. I had a copy, which I provided as evidence, but the Social Services didn’t have a copy that had the amendments. I had “doctored” my copy, was the response. More “evidence” of my devious and manipulative nature. A “fact” that the expert psychologist took into account when making his diagnosis about me.
Behold! I found that the same (amended) copy was right there in the User File. I mentioned this to the Children’s Guardian, who subsequently looked at the original file held by Social Services. (Luckily, before the manager had time to cover it all up and simply accuse me of doctoring the User File as well!) it was only under cross-examination at the final hearing that the social worker admitted that they did have the amended agreement on file after all, but they conveniently failed to disclose this fact 20 months earlier when the ruling to keep the children in foster care was made. The ruling that hinged on this act of fraud that I had committed… (Allegedly?)
Another time I failed to get a copy of documentation when formally requested was when I asked for the notes and records from Legard, the residential assessment centre (5 months at £15,000 per month!) It was noted in the court papers that I spent an inordinate amount of time examining the files in our room when I should have been preparing for our imminent departure “back into the community”. What they didn’t know was that I was furiously photographing the 800-odd pages as quickly as possible, knowing that I’d probably never get a copy, whatever the “law” says about my rights in this matter.
Finally, although I obtained a copy of my police report, there was nothing of note on file about me. However, some time later, when I applied for a job as a teacher, I was told that I had failed my CRB check. I could never work in any kind of state institution (like a school) that involved working with children. The copy I got from the agency was very revealing. Selected accusations made in court and my psychological diagnosis, not to mention that we had “accepted threshold” with respect to neglecting our children, were all there in the report. Put there by the Child Protection Officer…
When I subsequently complained to various police authorities, I was told that what is entered into the police report is at the officer’s discretion and cannot be removed or edited by anyone else, no matter how high in the police force. So, false or distorted information will remain on police file for life. And there appears to be no law or procedure that will rectify it.
It was a blessing in disguise, nonetheless. I ended up by providing corporate training and earned as much in one day as I would have earned in a month working full time as a school teacher! J
I support any endeavour that obliges the authorities to disclose all information kept on record (long) before being allowed to take any action, and certainly before any court can make any ruling. The only proviso is in an emergency where it is strongly suspected (and good supporting evidence needs to be to hand or face stiff financial & career penalties) that a child is in serious danger of abuse. Not mamby-pamby stuff like not getting a sufficient breakfast or suffering “emotional” abuse or “neglect”. It would have to be something really serious, like risk of death or maiming or serious starvation (that can’t be rectified by simply giving the kids 3 meals a day at a community centre!)
If pigs had wings…
From: trevor jones [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
We are looking at gathering evidence regards the DPA issues raised by PAIN in the Times today - any assistance gratefully received. Family courts system is hiding evidence http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/law/article6188481.ece Regards Trevor PAIN