Posts Tagged ‘social workers’


February 8, 2009

At 16, Clover Stroud’s idyllic childhood was shattered when a riding accident left her mother severely brain-damaged. Now, 15 years on, funding for her care is being withdrawn. Can that be right?

By Clover Stroud

The Guardian, Saturday 6 January 2007

In the late morning of November 25 1991, my mother was riding on a disused airfield in Gloucestershire when her horse slipped and fell on a strip of concrete. She was wearing a riding hat but her head took the full impact. She was admitted to intensive care in Bristol in a deep coma, and was operated on that afternoon. Her prognosis was very bleak. The neurologist operated on Mum a second and third time over the next two months. We wish he had not.

Her reawakening, four months later, was very slow: there was never a movie moment when she opened her eyes and normality returned. Mum never came back, and she never looked like herself again either. Flaps of her skull were cut away to relieve the pressure in her brain and she had a big scar running from one ear to the other over the top of her shaved head. One of her eyes was partly shut, and has never reopened. So as she awakened she stared at us – her five children and my father – from her one good eye, looking frightened, angry, alone, because she, like us, was trying to work out what had happened, who she had become.

I am the youngest of five children. Mum had my oldest sister when she was in her 20s, and me in her 40s, and what she loved was chaotic family life. She had three children, my siblings Emma, Sophy and Tom, before getting divorced and moving to Oxford. It was the late 60s, and she and her best friend, Felicity, swapped babysitting and hotpants, wore their hair long and straight and ate a lot of cheesecake. She met my father, 11 years her junior, when he was still a student. They got married before he finished his finals and then my sister Nell and I were born.

We moved to Wiltshire when I was seven. Mum had an innate ability to create a very strong home, but would never have stressed over matching sheets and pillowcases. She filled the house with messy bunches of wild flowers and a lot of people. Everyone fell for her, because she made every day into something magic without seeming to try. Of course there must have been arguments, because that is the stuffing of family life, but even in the generically stormy teenage years, I didn’t fight with her. If I am making my early life sound romantic, that is because it was. When I feel anger or despair about what has happened to her, I remember that I was very privileged to have had her as a mother for as long as I did.

I was 16 when the accident happened and in the first year of my A-levels. Nell was on her year off before university. Life changed absolutely in the space of one morning. I can’t remember much about the time immediately after the accident, about the weeks we spent beside her body in intensive care, but someone told me that shock and trauma can make you forget a lot of things. But when she did slowly wake up, she was totally changed and entirely mentally disabled.

We all talked about what would happen when she got better. Then we imagined we would be unlocked from this awful parallel world of brain-damage units and rehabilitation centres, incontinence pads and a dribbling, confused, damaged woman who in some strange, shadowy way resembled the woman she was, but in most ways did not.

Writing this, 15 years later and Mum’s condition unchanged – if anything much worse – it seems laughable, pathetically optimistic, that we estimated her full recovery might, at the very worst, take two years. Denial, I suppose, is what we were in. And survival mode, too. When you are looking at the reality of long-term, chronic brain damage, you will do anything you can to survive.

I am now 31 and I have two young children of my own. I look back on the time before her accident as an entirely different life. Part of this is the inevitable nostalgia of an adult reviewing childhood, but what happened to Mum did profoundly change my life and my sensibilities. It is not true that every cloud has a silver lining, because nothing good, nothing positive, has come from what happened to her. It is just a nightmare, for her, for us all, that goes on and on.

Five months after the initial operations, the NHS declared that Mum, doubly incontinent, confused, disfigured, deeply brain-damaged forever, could be sent home to be looked after by Nell and me. She was awake, so they saw her surgery as a success.

A year after the accident, my sister Emma took Mum to the surgeon who had operated on her, to show him the condition she had been left in. He refused to see her. If this was saving a life at any cost, then that cost was too high.

Mum came back to live at home with a nurse. We changed her nappies, and tried to pretend that life was OK, even though the house smelt of hospitals and pee and an unnamed damage that we still couldn’t really contemplate. I did my A-levels, and Nell went to university. None of us wanted to be at home, and then a sort of late teenage rebellion set in, because it was the early 1990s and the rave scene was huge. Dancing all night in a muddy field was the most effective way Nell and I found to block out the reality of the Gothic hospital that our home had become.

But after two years everyone conceded that Mum was too sick, too deranged and damaged to live at home. So my dad sold our house, bought himself a houseboat in London and spent the change on a small terraced house in Oxford, where Nell and I both had places at university. Mum, needing skilled, full-time nursing, was awarded full NHS funding, and moved into a rehabilitation centre.

Seven years ago, she moved again, to an EMI – elderly and mentally infirm – unit in Norfolk. All of us have visited her as much as we can over the past decade. After I finished university I got married very quickly and had two children, now three and six. I got divorced almost as rapidly, and now live in Oxford in the same house that my dad bought, which Mum partly owns.

Visiting Mum is difficult. She cannot speak, write or communicate. She is epileptic as a result of the accident and doubly incontinent. She is disfigured, her head swollen, and now both her eyes are half-closed. She had to have all her teeth removed last year, she dribbles a lot, her tongue lolls and she is on a largely pureed diet. When she eats, she chokes, her tongue out. She does not recognise me, except for a moaning sound of sadness that she sometimes makes when I come into her room. I find it quite hard to remember the person that she was, the sound of her voice, the things we laughed about. She used to love babies, but when I first arrived with my son, she sat on her hands and wouldn’t look at me or touch him. I don’t know who she is.

Mum would have hated the idea of what she has become and the life it has created. There is no doubt that death would have been preferable. It would have been dignified, and you couldn’t construct a more sad living present for a person than the one that Mum lives in. Eight years ago, when she was a little more mobile, she got hold of some medication and took an overdose. She went into a coma, again, and in hospital her stomach was pumped. For what? To perpetuate this living death? When she came round again, her brain damage seemed to be more profound, and she has deteriorated even more since then.

Knowing that she was getting the nursing she needed was the one consolation after her accident, but recently that has changed. Early last year, Wiltshire Primary Care Trust (PCT), part of the NHS that had granted Mum full funding 15 years ago due to the severity of her injuries, informed me that within 28 days they would cease her funding. They claimed she no longer fulfilled the Continuing Health Care criteria to qualify for funding. No social worker has been actively involved with Mum in the past decade, even through her suicide attempt, and later an allegation of abuse at the rehabilitation centre involving a police inquiry. So the first time in many years that a social worker or member of the PCT had come to see her was to assess her for the removal of her funding. When we appealed against this decision, she was visited again by a PCT nurse who didn’t meet her, as she had been rushed into hospital that night, but he looked through her notes, talked to one of her nurses and me, and then filled in a form in which he stated that her needs were no longer “intense, unpredictable or complex”, three of the key criteria to qualify her for ongoing funding. After that the PCT relinquished responsibility for her without any formal discharge of responsibility. She was just dumped, even though social services never accepted responsibility for Mum.

Events became even more critical in late November, as we were told her nursing home was closing in early December. I found another home in Wiltshire, and stopped work, spending a month on the telephone with the PCT, pleading with them to reinstate her funding, pending the result of the appeal in January 2007, so that I could move her to a new home. Their refusal was categorical and felt deeply inhumane, as within days she would be homeless. I was advised they were acting unlawfully by ceasing responsibility for her while the appeal was in process, but I was also powerless in the face of the bureaucracy of the NHS. So they were acting unlawfully, but what could I do? Call the police?

When the PCT nurse told me that he would be going on leave for a week, and with her home closing within three days, I realised I would have to take dramatic, practical action. On December 1, I left my children with a friend in Oxford, and my sister Emma and I drove Mum to the offices of the PCT in Wiltshire, where I was prepared to leave her, because I did not have an option. The sight of Mum – damaged, frightened, vulnerable – forced them to concede, and Alison Knowles, Director of Performance Improvement and Commissioning, agreed that the PCT and social services should jointly pick up her funding until the result of the appeal in January.

The appeal about Mum’s funding is next week, and fighting her case has taken over my life. I have not worked since last November. I am a single parent supporting two children, and because I live in the house partly owned by Mum, I am facing losing my home. I know that this is a familiar story to a lot of people. Care for elderly or sick relatives cripples families already buckling under the emotional consequences of that sickness. Longevity is a family trait and Mum may well live for another 25 years. I don’t know how to shoulder such long-term financial responsibility, as her fees are more than £26,000 a year.

My story is not an isolated case. This is the way the NHS works today.

Care and the NHS

The 1946 NHS Act and 1948 National Assistance Act established two parallel systems of care: the NHS, which provides care free at the point of delivery, and local authority-funded social care, which is means-tested. Successive governments have exploited this division to cut costs and reduce NHS provision, redefining health care as social care. As long-stay NHS hospitals have been closed, funding has been moved from the NHS and local authorities to for-profit corporations.

Today the NHS in England has fewer than 190,000 available beds (most for acute hospital care); in 1948 there were 450,000 (which included long-stay beds). The mainly for-profit sector, meanwhile, has been subsidised to provide in excess of 360,000 long-stay beds. Today the NHS is responsible for fully funding fewer than 21,000 people with long-term care needs – most people in long-stay beds must pay until their assets are exhausted.

The 1990 NHS and Community Care Act was designed to reduce funding and restrict eligibility for NHS-funded care further through the formal assessments of need. In 1997, the incoming Labour government established a royal commission on long-term care, but rejected the core recommendation that personal care be free. Since then, the health ombudsman, health select committee and the Law Society have published reports drawing attention to the unfairnesses and confusion in government policy and the distress caused to thousands, yet nothing has been done. Now the courts have stepped in. The judgments highlight that government policy and procedures are being applied unlawfully, and that people whose primary need is for health care should receive fully funded care.

More than 4,000 complaints have been received by the health ombudsman – complaints can only be made once all avenues have been exhausted.

· Allyson Pollock – author of NHS plc: the Privatisation of Our Health Care (Verso)



October 17, 2008


What I utterly fail to understand about the media being unwilling to take on these stories is that, as far as I understand it,  they can be reported in quite a detailed manner, providing they are anonymised.

I listened very carefully to the judge expounding details of the injunctions relating to a case and it was all about simply not identifying the protagonists. There is no actual ban on telling the story as long as different names are used and there is nothing to directly identify various people.

Now, I know the media are obsessed with producing people’s names. I was taught as a local newspaper reporter the idea was to encourage people to read the paper to look for their names in it. That is what local papers do. While it is also generally important to identify people in any story, when it is impossible to identify them, it doesn’t mean the story is automatically worthless and should be killed.

It is just because of the draconian totalitarian secrecy of the family courts that many of those stories should and could be told in quite significant detail because many are so incredibly shocking.

Until I had my own little brush with the evils of Social Workers and their abuse in the family courts I wouldn’t have been able to believe there was such a widescale abuse of justice going on in this country, the like of which we all normally associate with the worst of totalitarian regimes, like Hitler’s mass extermination programme or Stalin’s Russia, or Romania’s recent dictatorshiop which seemed to particularly specialise in abusing children.

What I learnt from my own experiences of social workers and their representations to the family court is that the half baked opinion of some incredibly ignorant, often inadequate person, most often than not with a psychological problem making them  want to  be a ‘control freak’ and sanctimoniously tell others what to do to the nth degree, is all that removes children from their parents – not the inadequacy of parents.

I experienced exactly that from just about every social worker I dealt with. Take the time to read this thumbnail of my case.


My partner is a faultless Mother (apart from the consequences of her mental illness)  and I am a pretty competent type of Father. When my partner started falling ill with schizophrenia and became consequentially wildly erratic, I called social services asking them to fulfill their statutory duty to provide the medical help my partner is legally entitled to and the assistance three very small children were entitled to by virtue of being in danger etc because of psychosis and my partner abducting the children from the family home and living in damaging, very overcrowded circumstances.

Social Services first flatly refuse to do anything at all, then paid a visit with a psychiatrist to where my partner and the children were and tell me they agreed my partner is thoroughly insane but as the children ’seem to be OK at the moment, there is nothing they can do until things get worse and something really bad happens’.

When I take private law action seeking custody my partner immediately tells the court she wishes me to have custody because she recognises the dangers of her illness. This results in an interim order that my baby son resides with me. Bizarrely, the judge makes the first big mistake in the very first hearing by arbitrarily ordering my two step children to reside with their Father, who had expressly said he wanted me to have custody ( and I had agreed) as he would be unable to look after them. This order eventually leads to the breakup of that Father’s family and severe damage to the two step kids of mine over the long period of time the saga goes on for. The Judge was a moron.

So, my baby son was resident with me, and his Mum came too because she always had a good relationship with me and being with me invariably encouraged her to become better from her attacks of psychosis. Social workers now come to my house to make out their report to the court relating to my custody action. They lied in their report, saying ‘I hadn’t bonded with my son and ignored him on their first visit’. My son was asleep during that entire visit so not much bonding was likely to go on. I certainly didn’t ignore him, as I checked him every ten minutes to make sure he hadn’t rolled off the sofa. They also lied in their report saying my house was ‘unsuitable’  and my bedroom, where my son slept with me, was ‘dangerous’. That was incredible nonsense as it was a normal,  recently brand new room in every way.

Their apotheosis of incompetent nastiness came when they told my partner, in front of me, that she should employ a lawyer ‘to fight me for custody of her child, otherwise she may never see him again’. She had only just come out of a period of being sectioned in a secure mental ward. She was better, pretty normal. She instantly had a breakdown as a result of what that idiot social worker said and abducted my son, fleeing to her aged Mother’s one bedroom council pensioner accommodation 200 miles away in North Wales.

The police, sent by me to retrieve my son under the terms of the interim court order he reside with me, were told to get lost by social services and instructed to inform me I would have to go back to court if I wanted to retrieve my son. Their contradiction of the existing court order was an illegal contempt of court as they did not have or even bother to state any reason for this.

When I got to court a few weeks later, social services were in court and had brought my partner with them and produced a legal team. Social services had now taken it upon themselves to manipulate my highly suggestible partner, taking over her until now passive by our mutual agreement, case and persuade her to fight me for custody and somehow made my partner believe we were a couple splitting up and living apart. This was not the case and had never been the case. My partner and I had always ‘got on well’, excepting the difficulties psychosis sometimes produced.

Social services then proceeded to advise the court my son would be better off staying with his mum 200 miles from me on the grounds ‘it would be disruptive’ for him to return to his London home with me as he had now been away for about four weeks.

The judge said plainly that it was clearly quite unsafe for mum to look after the two year old child as she had a recent history of severe mental illness and dangerous behaviour and an obvious inability to look after a child or even herself. Social services insisted that was their advice. My lawyers hadn’t thought of the need for me to have an opposing witness. In fairness, were were completely ambushed by social services, but with hindsight I now realise my lawyers should have seen it coming and employed my own social worker witness.

The judge made a huge song and dance about it, and said she was being forced by social services to do something that was not appropriate. The judge then said she would only agree to placing the child with mum if social services visited mum every day and made sure mum attended her doctor on a weekly basis etc, etc. The judge made a point of saying that I was a good father and that I should be able to have completely unrestricted access to my son for two days a week and that social services should pay my expenses travelling 200 miles to see my son two days a week.

Social services did not pay my expenses and restricted my access to my son for two hours on each of the two days I visited him. They insisted I was supervised and I was not allowed to be alone with my son or take him with me overnight as explicitly ordered by the judge. This was on the entirely imaginary grounds that I was somehow ‘violent’ towards social services staff. There had been absolutely no incident of me being anything other than well mannered and polite at all times to social services and there had been no incident of anything remotely resembling violence. Being brought up in an exceptionally well mannered family and attending a private school which was positively obsessed with good manners and politeness, random violence is just not on my agenda.

Predictably, even social services had to eventually agree mum was far too dangerous to look after a two year old and my son was removed from mum after a few months. Instead of returning him to me, they put him in foster care where he was viciously abused, being constantly poked by the foster parents with a walking stick. This produced numerous identical round bruises all over my son’s torso and he still remembers it all now at the age of ten – over seven years later. 

Social services then told me, in front of my solicitor, that they were considering putting my son up for adoption and they explicitly threatened me that ‘if I didn’t co-operative with them my son would be adopted.

At this point I would remind you that at no time had anyone suggested I was an inadequate parent in any way whatever. Social services had not made any suggestion like this themselves. But you will notice a continuum of spiteful, arrogant disregard of law, any shred of competence, human rights or any sense of human decency whatever from social services so far.

I took social services to court and won custody of my son, but still had to suffer their menacing presence for another year of weekly visits as though I had been accused of inadequate parenting of some kind, which I never had been. They even forced me to go to parenting classes !

Their last effort at spiteful destructiveness was to announce  (at one of their care plan meetings) to my partner in front of me that I had had an affair, a relationship, with another woman while my partner had been living away from me. This resided entirely in their imaginations and was completely untrue and they had no meaningful reason to say something like that at all. They’re just plain weird, nasty people.

Unfortunately, the whole debacle had only made my son’s mother even more mentally ill through the stress of social services completely wrecking her family and being the agent for her losing her two older children to a their father who she knew neither wanted them or was capable of looking after them properly. And so it turned out to be the case.

Our previously close knit family had been completely blown apart by the activities of social services and the two elder children lost, becoming severely emotionally damaged by virtue of living with their father. 

Although my partner continued to live with me for quite a long time after our son was returned to me,  she descended into alchoholism and eventually abandoned her son and me as a product of her illness. Despite this we have always maintained a good and very friendly relationship and still do to this day.

Meanwhile all our lives have been comprehensively wrecked in a manner which has been entirely orchestrated by the activities of Social Services.

This sort of behaviour by social services seems to happen time and time again in virtually all cases they deal with. I have heard endless stories of social services being worse than useless, spiteful,  destructive and nasty. The damage they cause children and the  parents of those children is breathtaking.


May 29, 2008

I found this quote on the  Fassit  website today. It may sound like strong stuff. A little exaggerated, you might think. But I can tell you it is true because I have seen it all in action and experienced it directly myself.


Social, Services and Family Law in Britain today is evil and destructive. The system is populated by perverts and wierdos as well as just plain incompetent fools – particularly within the Social Services. No wonder the youth of the country are becoming more dysfuntional on a daily basis.


Britain has become a rotten society, as the Bishop said to the press today. He is on the front pages of at least some of the newspapers.


Here is the quote.


‘We live in a country where at present a minority of gutless, ignorant and cruel individuals stand more unaccountable than ministers in our own government. An unaccountable minority making lives hell for thousands of families and their precious children each year.

An unaccountable minority who escape prosecution for their perjurous crimes committed against innocent families in unaccountable family courts wrapped in secrecy.  Unaccountable legal representatives who pretend to care right at the start only to deceive and ignore nearing the end.

These are draconian laws, but made worse when twisted by local authority officials using a safety net of unaccountability. Abolish all secrecy in the Family Courts and let the daylight of open inquiry illuminate their work.” Fassit