A County Court judge has criticised three North East Lincolnshire social workers for having evidence which was “grossly overstated” in order to achieve adoption for a child.
Judge Simon Jack said the council’s witnesses were “visibly biased” in their attempts to support the local authority’s case. He added that this was the first time he had ever taken such a view in 10 years of hearing care cases.
He said of a social worker: “I had the clear impression that he was, for whatever reason, whether it was his own inclination or instructions from above, that he was intent on saying only things which supported the local authority’s case and was very reluctant to make any concessions which would undermine that case.”
The judge heard from three social workers about a young boy they were trying to get an adoption placement for.
The case was not judging whether the boy should remain in the care of his parents, but whether he could be placed with either of his two sets of grandparents. The local authority had ruled out both sets of grandparents because of, in the case of Mr. and Mrs. C, domestic violence and drink problems, and in the case of Mr. and Mrs. G because they had too much on their plate caring for older children who had difficulties of their own.
However, the judge felt some evidence from social workers was “totally discredited” after things they said in court conflicted with their own statement. “I had the very strong impression that the local authority witnesses were intent on playing up any factors which were unfavourable to the grandparents and playing down any factors which might be favourable,” the judge said.
One example of this was when one social worker said “you could say that” to positive evidence about the grandparents found in the paper.
“A degree of realism”
Reacting to the claims that one set of grandparents had problems with domestic violence, the judge said that the courts “are not in the business of social engineering”.
“The courts are not in the business of providing children with perfect homes. If we took into care and placed for adoption every child whose parents had a domestic spat and every child whose parents on occasion had drunk too much then the care system would be overwhelmed and there would not be enough adoptive parents,” he said, adding that courts and social services need to have “a degree of realism” about prospective carers.
After using a balancing exercise undertaken in accordance with the Re B-S case, the judge said that the positives for the child remaining within his own family “far outweighed” the negatives which would follow from adoption.
The judge decided that the boy be placed with Mr. and Mrs. G and said that he expects North East Lincolnshire Council to provide as much support is needed to help ensure the placement works.
A spokesman for North East Lincolnshire Council has said the case illustrated “the complexities and difficult decisions” that have to be made in these circumstances.
He added: “The Council does not regard this decision as a criticism of its Child Protection procedures as the safety of the child concerned was protected at all times by the authority’s actions.”