Speech by Anne Neale from Legal Action for Women on behalf of the Support Not Separation Coalition on Friday 8 March, Defending Our Children and Our World outside the Royal Courts of Justice, London
Event organised by the Global Women’s Strike, for International Women’s Day/International Women’s Strike
“We have been picketing outside the central family court every month for 2 years and every time we meet mums, grannies and some dads who are in court fighting to stop their children being taken. A mums’ self help group meets monthly at our women’s centre. We know that taking children away from their loving mothers and birth families for no good reason is torture. Thousands of children who are separated every year suffer lifelong trauma as they lose contact with their mothers, fathers, grandparents, brothers and sisters and wider family networks, for whom the separation is also deeply traumatic. Children from single mother and other poor households, and/or who are Black, immigrant or have disabilities are targetted.
We are striking because there are more children in care now than at any time in the past 30 years, because 90 per cent of adoptions are without parental consent and because more and more children are being monitored by social services yet get no help when they need it. Children in foster care and institutional care face sexual and other abuse and neglect but this is ignored.
We are striking to stop poverty being used as a reason to take children from their mothers; let’s call benefit cuts, universal credit and low wages what they really are – violence vs mothers and children; Taking children just because their mums are victims of domestic violence or have disabilities or because of some “possible future emotional harm” must be stopped. We are calling out the institutional sexism and racism in the family courts including the court we are in front of today, where judges, including women judges rule mothers are unfit for breastfeeding, or carrying their baby in a sling and who prioritise violent fathers having contact or residence of their children regardless of the danger this puts them in. And we’re calling out all the lawyers who take money to defend us but don’t.
We are striking to end the secrecy of the family courts where rulings happen behind closed doors, where social workers, health professionals and other so called experts are allowed to make false accusations to prove mothers are unfit, yet are rarely held accountable and mothers who dare to disagree or challenge professionals are punished.
We are striking for a living wage for mothers and other carers so that no mother can be called unfit because of poverty; we want the resources which go into the increasingly privatised industries of fostering, adoption, institutional care to go instead to families who need support to stay together. We are getting together with other people who know that children need their mothers and mothers need their children. We will win Support Not Separation Now.”
A message to the event from Emma Lewell Buck MP
Shadow Minister for Children & Families
Labour has a different strategy, we do not believe that punitive welfare policies imposed by the state, resulting in the inevitability of poverty for so many, is neglectful parenting. We do not believe that those who have endured domestic abuse should be doubly punished by having their children removed from their care.
We believe in working with families in local communities to prevent children becoming at risk of going into care and to support all forms of care if a child can’t remain with their parents.
If there is one thing I want to leave you with today it is that Labour will always fight to protect families and to give children and their mothers the absolute best start in life – regardless of their background, postcode or circumstances – because the cost of not doing so is something we are already seeing being borne out in Tory Britain today.