Adoption groups have warned against allowing social workers to
refuse to work on cases if they disagree with adoptions by same sex
couples because of religious beliefs, writes Derren
Debate over the so-called ‘conscience clause’ has
arisen following stories in the national press this week about two
social workers who were moved from Sefton council’s
children’s services because of concerns they had over
allowing same sex couple to adopt.
Although gay and lesbian people have been able to adopt for a
number of years, the new Adoption and Children Act, due to be
introduced later this year, will allow same sex couples to jointly
adopt for the first time.
Experienced children’s social workers Norah Ellis and Dawn
Jackson were warned by Sefton council in October 2002 that they
could be disciplined and potentially face the sack if they refused
to work with same sex couples. It followed comments they made to
colleagues over how their Christian beliefs meant they felt same
sex couples could not provide the right environment for
After they consulted solicitors it was amicably agreed they
should be transferred to adult services as they felt unable to
continue in their existing jobs. This has led to calls from some
MPs for there to be a conscience clause in the new legislation to
protect social workers with religious beliefs.
But Barbara Hutchinson, deputy chief executive of Baaf Adoption
and Fostering, said such a clause would be “difficult to
“It is not about religious practice, but professional
practice and needs of children. People need to look at the
requirement of the job – if they really feel they can’t
do this for religious reasons there are voluntary agencies that
make exceptions,” she said.
Adoption UK chief executive Jonathan Pearce said any clause
would be “ridiculous and justify discrimination”.
“I can’t see how sexuality should say whether you
should be an adopter or good parent.
“This is not a case of political correctness, we just want
to keep the pool of prospective adopters as wide as
possible,” he added.
Sefton council said that any prospective adopter is treated the
same regardless of their religion, sex or race.