My least favourite thing about being an MP

"What don't you like about your job as an MP?" I was recently asked in front of a classroom full of cheerful children

by Douglas Carswell MP on 13 May 2013 13:04

"What don't you like about your job as an MP?" I was recently asked in front of a classroom full of cheerful children.

I think I waffled something about late night sittings. Or perhaps I made a quip about Prime Minister's Question Time.

Anything to avoid telling them about the one thing I really do not like: when the state forcefully takes a child away from their family – and desperate mum and dad, or granny, come to see me about it.

I never feel so hopeless or so out of my depth. I have no way of knowing all the facts. I am not a lawyer and I certainly cannot second guess a court.

On the one hand, failure to remove a child that was at risk of harm would be too awful to contemplate. And yet, how hideous it would be to forcefully take a child away from its mother, and put it up for adoption, on the basis of an error. Are we not, in some cases, removing children from their families simply because their life chances might be better in an adoptive family?

"But that does not happen!" I have for months been telling myself. "The experts consider all the facts, and make sensible, balanced decisions."  Really?  In which other area of public administration are mistakes never made?

Can we really have confidence in our family courts? I am starting to wonder. I've seen too many cases that raise disturbing questions.

Perhaps part of the problem is that family courts are shrouded in secrecy. I fear that we do not see when things go wrong. And because we cannot see if mistakes are made, what chance is there that they get put right?

In Denmark, children are only very rarely separated completely from their mother. Of course those that need to be are taken into care. But rarely are they formally put up for adoption against the wishes of the mother. Perhaps we need to learn from that approach.

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