A misguided crusade that will break up families


A misguided crusade that will break up families

Lynette Burrows defends parents' rights



Lynette Burrows is the mother of five children. She is an educator and lecturer who is very engaged in social debates, especially questions concerning the family. Lynette Burrows is often invited to participate in radio and TV-debates.

This article was previously published in The Catholic Herald on December 11, 1998.
It is published here with the kind consent of the author.


'Social workers are already bending the rules as much as they can get away with in their attempts to break up families.'


IN PREPARATION for the government's imminent consultation paper on the family, die heavy brigades of the child-care services are mustering in the wings. 160 of them have banded together into a group calling itself the "Alliance" and their aim is to persuade the government to take away the right of parents to discipline their children as they think fit. More specifically, they want smacking children to be made a criminal offence.

One could understand such an alliance of concerned professionals forming to fight abuses of children in care. After all, the Social Services Inspectorate reported in September that children's homes neither looked after nor protected children anything like adequately. The Minister agreed.

One would have thought that these abuses would have been highlighted by child-care organisations long ago; but they weren't. Instead, the one cause that has united them in collective "concern" has been an issue which, if it works as it is supposed to can only result in even more children being taken away from their families and being put into "care". What can possibly be the explanation of the rooted desire of so many worthwhile organisations to support such an assault on the beliefs and experience of millions of adults in this country? What gain can they possibly think is worth the loss caused to children and their parents by having the authorities destroy their families?

The answer, I believe, is the way it has been put to them. Nobody can possibly object to the aims of the United Nations Convention on the rights of child. They are no more than what every parent wants. But the interpretation that is possible to put upon the wording of the convention, by the activists who have set up and run almost all the initiatives in this area, are for people outside the family to interpret what are the best interests of the child" as uncontentiously stated by the convention.

For example, Peter Newell of Epoch Approach, ex-Children's Legal Centre, the Children's Rights Development Unit & The Children's Rights Development Office, wrote in a book in1991 that one parental right that could be challenged under this provision of the Convention was the right of parents to "impose religion on their children". Even if a person is sincerely convinced that smacking a child is not good for it, why do think that they have the right to impose this view on others, using the full right of the law? The majority of children are smacked by their parents who were themselves smacked. Their love and experience tells them that it had a positive effect, or they would not do it. The insufferably patronising argument used by the End Physical Punishment of Children activists - who, by the way are prime movers in the Alliance - is that parents are too stupid to change ideas in the light of experience. As if we grew up wanting rickets or outside toilets, just because our grandparents had them!

The answer to why they want to bring parents to heel in the matter lies in the example of Sweden, who these same activists always quote as a shining example of what they hope to achieve in this country. Sweden made physical correction of children a crime in 1979 and the anti-smackers constantly tell us that it has had nothing but positive effects. This is utterly and completely false.

The Swedes have been slow to react to what is being done to their families but now have a web page (www.nkmr.org) that describes what is really happening there. Sweden has been a socialist state for a long time but their opportunity to create the parental state, where children are seen as legal individuals without family ties, came when they passed laws ostensibly to support the UN Convention, but containing seemingly innocuous provisions that enabled state employees to decide what was the "best interest of the child".

This coupled with the antismacking law; gave social workers an entree into almost every family in the land - as it would here too. Questions asked at school result in a visit to the home and an inspection of the living quarters and kitchen. Was there too much religion, perhaps? (yes, it has happened); were there "pathological symbiotic relationships" in the family? - just in case there was no evidence of any kind of abuse. Even the possession of toy soldiers has been used as a reason to deprive parents of their children; and children of their home.

It is a horrifying read, which leaves one dazed and incredulous. However, if one was inclined to think the contributors (which include the only black woman lawyer in Sweden, lawyers, academics and a police chief) are exaggerating, consider the Swedish case, which went to the

European Court
in 1991 and attracted the attention of The Reader's Digest.

The Olsson family was targeted by the authorities as being a family that "could not cope". There was no objective evidence of this but, nevertheless, their three children, aged 8, 4 and 2 were abducted - that is the only word for it - when they were at a relative's house and were sent to anonymous, separate foster homes 600 miles away. It took five months even to locate their children and seven years to get their case to the

European Court
. The court found in their favour and awarded them £33,000 compensation. However, they did not get their children back. The only concession made to the court's ruling was that they were allowed three, two-hour visits to their children a year.

Now do you get the picture? Imagine those 120 children who were taken away from their parents in Cleveland because of suspected sexual abuse. The social workers were wrong and the doctor had made a wrong diagnoses. Apologies were made and compensation paid to the shattered families. If only the authorities had been able to say that a majority of the children had been smacked at some time, none of that climbdown would have been necessary. The authorities could have kept their apologies, their compensation and the children.

No, this is not scaremongering. It is exactly what happened in Sweden, where prominent figures in child-care made soothing noises about what a civilising effect the new law would have. But it has been a hammer in the hand of those antagonistic to the family. If you doubt that it would be used in such a way here, I have to tell you that some social workers are already bending the rules as much as they can get away with, in their attempts to break up families.

To confirm this, just check with Gerry Howard, who formed the National Child Rescue Association 12 years ago and received nearly a hundred calls a week from parents who are being terrorised by incompetent, bullying social workers. Write to him at 89,

Upper Lewes RoadBrighton, BN2 3FF
and judge for yourself whether the on-going cases which he cites on his fact sheets are not worthy of Nazi Germany rather than this country. Without any grants from public funds, he helps hundreds of families and, when he has his web site operative and a network of branches through the country, he will be able to do more. He deserves support because, as he clearly shows, when ordinary families are targeted and destroyed by social workers, they are on their own.

Bearing all this in mind, it is distressing to see on the Alliance's list of supporters, no less than four Catholic organisations. One can only hope and believe that they are simply unaware of what they are doing.


How to control Adults by means of 'children's rights'

Taboos - The consequences of Sweden's antismacking law should be a warning for Britain

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