Adoption rates down
Statistics for looked after children in England, for the year ending 31st of March 2019, have been published by the Department for Education. The statistics show that the number of children looked after by local authorities in England increased by 4% since 2018 to 78,150 – continuing increases seen in recent years. This is equivalent to a rate of 65 children per 10,000 – up from 64 per 10,000 in 2018 and 60 per 10,000 in 2015.
The largest age group (39%) are aged 10-15 years; 24% are aged 16 years and over; 18% are aged 5-9 years, 13% are aged 1-4 years and 5% are aged under 1 year. Over the last 5 years, the average age of looked after children has been steadily increasing. The number of looked after children who were adopted has fallen by 7% since 2018 to 3,570. Adoptions have been falling, down from 5,360 in 2015.
Carol Homden, chief executive of Coram children’s charity, commented:
“There are more single [people] and same-sex couples adopting now, and timescales for children adopted are still good, however, those not yet adopted are waiting longer. This dichotomy indicates a need to recruit more adopters and improve child-centred planning to ensure all children have the security and love they need.”
Still, on the subject of adoption, and in a case that could have significant implications, a Berkshire couple has been awarded nearly £120,000 in damages, after a judge ruled that they had been discriminated against by not being allowed to adopt a child.
Sandeep and Reena Mander had their application to join a register of approved adopters turned down because of their Indian ancestry. Backed by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, they sued the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead for discrimination. Her Honour Judge Melissa Clarke, sitting in the County Court at Oxford, held that the local authority had directly discriminated against Mr and Mrs Mander on the grounds of race.
The costs of abuse
Moving on, a study by the Universities of Birmingham and Warwick has found that female survivors of domestic abuse are at double the risk of developing long-term illnesses that cause widespread bodily pain and extreme tiredness. The research shows that women who have experienced domestic abuse are almost twice as likely to develop fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome (‘CFS’) than those who have not. Fibromyalgia causes pain all over the body, while CFS is an illness with a wide range of symptoms, most common of which is extreme tiredness.
Professor Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay, of the University of Birmingham’s Business School’s Department of Economics and Centre for Crime, Justice and Policing, said:
“We have been aware that domestic abuse has significant negative effects on victims and their children. This and other related work by our team showing strong associations with several diseases suggests that the costs of abuse are even greater than understood previously. The higher incidence of long-term illnesses, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, for abused women, implies the existence of an additional hidden cost to society that we need to understand better.”
And finally, perhaps the least surprising news of the week: a study by Birmingham City University has found that McKenzie Friends are giving “biased and misleading” online advice to vulnerable family litigants.
The study assessed the quality of advice handed out by advisors on online forums and social media platforms and found that online advisors often delivered biased advice and suggestions reflecting personal anti-court and anti-social services viewpoints. Sadly, this just confirms what should really be obvious: that the abolition of legal aid for most private law family matters has left many family litigants not just without access to proper advice, but worse, has made them the victims of bad advice. I will be looking at this story in greater detail in the coming days.
Have a good weekend.
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