Social worker recorded and verbally abused by a mother during care proceedings
A social worker has been accused of waging “a vindictive campaign” against a mother during care proceedings in a bid to remove her children from her.
In a Family Court Judgement heard by Judge Hudson, the mother in the case accused the social worker (SW1) of “driving her to insanity".
During the proceedings, it emerged the mother secretly recorded the social worker and accused her of assaulting one of her two children who were involved in the case, which the judge ruled out.
In a further incident, the social worker was left with bruises on her face following an incident with the children’s maternal grandmother. The judge found the social worker had been struck by the strap of the grandmother’s handbag, but did not rule on whether it was deliberate or not after witnesses’ accounts differed.
At the hearing, the local authority sought care orders with care plans providing for the placement of the children with their father (F). These plans are supported by F and by the children's guardian. The mother (M) sought the return of the children to her care. She had alleged previously that the father had physically, sexually and emotionally abused the children although the judge had concluded at an earlier hearing that there was no reliable evidence of sexual abuse of either child by F or anyone else; F had smacked B on two occasions, as he had admitted but there were no other findings of physical abuse by him of either child beyond this; there was no evidential basis for findings of physical or sexual abuse by any other man as had been alleged and the children’s statements had been influenced by the mother.
M claimed the local authority social worker, SW1, had an agenda to secure the children's removal from her care which pre-dated the care proceedings. She alleged that SW1 had lied and misrepresented situations to achieve her goal. In her statement dated 13th May 2016, M said it is her belief that the social worker has "waged a vindictive campaign against her to try and drive her to insanity".
On 16th October 2015 at a meeting, the mother was unhappy that the social worker SW1 was working from the previous judgment and not her (M's) account of previous events. The social worker alleged that M was loud and abusive and was asked to leave the social services' building, although the mother denies this.
The judge concluded on the evidence provided that the mother had reacted adversely to the social worker’s stance that she was working from the findings of the court and responded in an angry and confrontational way so that the social worker ended the meeting.
At a hearing in the private law proceedings on 18th November 2015, the local authority confirmed its intention to issue care proceedings and seek the children's removal from the mother’s care. Naturally, the mother reacted badly to the news.
The local authority conducted a positive assessment of the children’s paternal aunt and uncle. The mother was disparaging about the aunt and became angry and expressed herself volubly in earshot of the children who were in the next room about her views and those of her local community about "the disgraceful and terrible" local authority actions in seeking to remove the children from her. The local authority further alleges that the mother was loudly disparaging of the aunt and uncle and their home in contrast to her own with repeated references to them living in a "grotty council estate" and being "working class".
At the interim care hearing, the judge made interim care orders approving the care plan of the children's placement with the aunt. When the social worker went to the house to explain the situation to the family, she was refused entry until the police arrived. The situation was distressing for the children and they were eventually removed the following day and taken to the paternal aunt’s house where they soon settled.
It later emerged in May that without the local authority's knowledge or consent, the mother had been recording meetings covertly. She says she has done so because of the lies she says SW1 has told. The mother also claimed that the social worker had assaulted one o fher children during contact in February, stroking his leg and ear, and fondling his leg and knee in front of three staff. However, the judge accepted the social worker’s evidence that she had simply provided the child with appropriate reassurance and wiped away his tears and mucus when his nose was running.
In July, at her son’s leaving concert, the mother failed to comply with an agreement signed at court. The social worker gestured for the mother to sit with her during the concert but the mother ignored this. She then, on leaving the concert, deliberately swung the gate back into the social worker’s face.
While the children stayed with the aunt and uncle, the father’s contact with the children, which had been the issue in the private law proceedings, had progressed. B had a warm and easy relationship with his father seeking affection appropriately and T enjoys his time with his father with shared interests giving them a particular focus.
Judge Hudson concluded that while it was clear that the local authority must share parental responsibility to ensure the wellbeing of the children is secured, the children should be placed with their father with care orders in place.
The mother would receive fortnightly supervised contact with the children with the goal being for them to have increased and unsupervised contact if that can safely be achieved. “That lies in their mother's hands,” Judge Hudson concluded.
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