Social work contribution to Syria case praised by family court chief

Sir James Munby highlights quality of independent social worker's report, which described state intervention as a “wake-up call”

Photo: Xinhua News Agency/Rex. Smoke rises after a US airstrike on positions of Islamic State terror group in Syria

A social worker and local authority have been praised for their interventions in a case where a family were believed to be attempting to travel to Syria.

A judgment by Sir James Munby, president of the Family Division of the High Court of England and Wales, praised an independent social worker for a “detailed, impressive and compelling piece of work” in a report analysing the impact of state intervention with the family.

Four children were made wards of court after they and their two parents, named at the time in the national press as Asif Malik and Sara Kiran, left home in April this year and were believed to be heading to Syria. They were detained in Turkey and returned, via Moldova, to the UK, where the children were made wards of court under the recommendation of their local authority, Slough.

Significant harm

In the original hearing, the local authority said it believed the children had suffered significant harm and were likely to do so in the event that wardship orders were not made.

“There are reasonable grounds for believing that this family left Slough on about 8th April 2015 to join Islamic State in Syria…If that is right, the parents chose to expose their children to obvious risks in doing so,” the local authority said.

In the follow up coda published in October, Justice Munby referred to a report from the independent social worker which said the intervention had been “a wakeup call for this couple”. He also discharged the wardship orders.

No risk

The independent social worker said: “It is my assessment that their current beliefs do not pose a risk or will compromise the safety of their children … [They] are good parents and they are able to care for all their children. I see no reason whatsoever to remove the children from their care.”

Munby concluded: “The guardian’s recommendation, set out in writing on 23 September 2015, was, in agreement with the local authority, that no further orders should be sought and that the wardship proceedings be discontinued.”

“I leave the final word to the parents, who say, and I accept, ‘wish to put the incident behind them and concentrated on being the best parents for their children, with the continued support of their family and friends’,” he said.

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