Families fleeing the interventions of social workers have been finding a far more humane approach across the water.
Such is the reign of terror now being imposed on innocent English families by social workers that scores of parents have been fleeing with their children to Ireland to escape their clutches. I have followed a dozen such stories over the past two years, and in all of them two things stand out. One is that the English social workers seem prepared to stop at nothing to get the children back. The other is the extraordinary contrast between them and the Irish social workers, who again and again have satisfied themselves that the children are at no risk from their loving parents and are astonished by the ruthless behaviour of their English counterparts.
Several of these stories I have reported more than once and they do not have happy endings. A mother and baby were pursued to Ireland by six social workers and police, who sat in Dublin for 10 days of court hearings, until a judge ruled in their favour (with the social workers seen giving “high fives” on emerging from the court). When the mother again escaped to a remote cottage, she was violently knocked down by a policeman, so that her baby could be taken back to England.
Vicky Haigh, a former racehorse trainer, managed to escape to Ireland before her daughter was born. But then she was brought to England to be quite bizarrely punished, in a case relating to her beloved older daughter, with a three-year prison sentence – leaving her baby to be looked after in Ireland.
A 14-year-old boy lived happily with his mother in Ireland for six months until, after an equally bizarre judgment based on evidence neither he nor his mother were allowed to see, he was deported miserably back to care in England.
Last week, another such story came my way. It concerns a respectable family which was hit with disaster last summer, after the semi-autistic 8-year-old son –who tends to make things up – had lashed out at his 13-year-old sister, leaving bruises. When these were investigated, the boy told the police that his father had done it. The girl denied this – and the boy admitted in video evidence what had really happened – but the police stuck with his earlier story and arrested the father. Although he was never charged, the interventions of social workers became so menacing that, last October, the family escaped to Ireland, where the father has his roots.
There they have happily settled, and the 13-year-old daughter has become a star pupil of the local school. But the social workers eventually tracked them down – after the children’s grandmother, back in England, had been arrested by 10 police officers, handcuffed, held for three hours in a cell, and told she would be charged with perverting the course of justice unless she revealed their whereabouts. The English social workers pressed their Irish counterparts to co-operate in getting the children back to England (there are no court orders), but were told there was no reason for this because the children were in no danger.
The social workers then tried to lean on the school principal, saying that the children were “at risk of emotional harm”. The sensible headmistress gave them very short shrift, saying that the English social workers had behaved deplorably in trying to destroy a perfectly normal family, and that England’s loss was Ireland’s gain, since the girl was a brilliant pupil, who was learning five languages. Thanks to their origins, the family will soon be safely confirmed as Irish citizens.
What is striking about these stories is how often the parents emphasise the contrast between the two countries’ social workers. “In England,” says this father, “we were treated like dangerous criminals. In Ireland the social workers could not be more different, warm, friendly, treating us like human beings.” And of course it is in England that the number of children taken into care has soared to a record level, just having topped 900 a month. There is a phenomenon of group psychology here that deserves much wider attention than it is being given.