Protecting your family against Social Services




Intervention Now!

To flee, or not to flee? That is the question...

Fleeing from social services is the most extreme option that you can take in deciding how to deal with their intervention. It is a huge upheaval, you will not only be leaving behind your home, probably a lot of your possessions but also, most importantly family and friends. You may be removing your child from school, from grandparents, their friends, the clubs they attend and ultimately the safe environment they call home. You are giving up a lot, but as many parents who have successfully fled will confirm, the fear of an even greater loss - that of your children - makes the sacrifice of material things and even extended family a price worth paying.


Just to be clear, we do not encourage you to flee. Often by engaging with one of our Lay Advocates and allowing them to assess your situation, a realistic plan can be developed to fight back without leaving your lives behind. We have had success at preventing social services going as far as court proceedings by challenging them every step of the way. Unless you are able to take this on, with all the associated research required, we suggest that you take advantage of the service offered by our Lay Advocates.


There are many questions that you will no doubt ask yourself. Ultimately what will drive your decision is the worry and fear that you have over the safety of your children and your self belief in your ability to fight the system.


However, if you choose to leave the country our network has the contacts, experience and knowledge to give you the best chance of succeeding in your action. Like anyone, we can offer no guarantees, but we can offer support to guide you.


So, when faced with social services intervention should you stay and fight them or is your best option to flee and remove yourself from their jurisdiction? There is no easy answer to this. Everything depends upon your individual circumstances but there are a few basic ground rules that you need to consider before you make your decision.


1. Be completely honest with yourself

Do social services have a valid issue with you and are they actually justified in their enquiries?


If you have been reported for taking drugs, passed out and your children left to care for themselves whilst you were unconscious then perhaps the social services have a point.  Fleeing is not going to protect you, as the local authority will pursue you, seeking recovery orders, alerting Interpol, getting the police to call on your family to find out where you are etc.  With a serious and valid claim against you the authorities will assist in the recovery of your children.  In those circumstances it may be better to ask for help and put the onus back on the social workers to do their job and assist you.


However, if what they allege is nonsense and you have evidence to prove it then you have a basis to fight back. Of course, you may still feel that fleeing is the best option anyway, if for nothing more than to give you space to organise your fight.


2. Assess their agenda as best you can

What do you think the social worker’s agenda may be?  Are they threatening in their approach to you? Are they making noises about Court action in the earliest communications with you? What are they requesting you should do in their reports? A risk assessment? Mental health assessment? Access to your medical records? Are you likely to comply with their requests and attend their meetings or are you more likely to refuse engagement with them because they have totally got the situation wrong?  


If you don't wish to engage they could become heavy handed very quickly. If you are not prepared to let the social worker into your home and see your children then that does give them grounds for applying for an Emergency Protection Order or to request Police assistance to gain entry to your home. Unfortunately it is an ever-changing balancing exercise in judging the best approach to take. Simply allowing the social workers to see your children, in one room only of your home, with you present all the time removes the chance of an EPO on the grounds of not seeing the children, but still leaves you the opportunity to plan ahead and/or to flee.


3. Any previous involvement?

Your decision will be affected if you have had any dealings with social services previously.  


Have you had other children removed? Have you been in care yourself? Are you pregnant and they are threatening to remove your baby at birth for risk of future emotional harm?


All these are danger signs that it is likely the ultimate aim will be to remove your child.  If you already have had children removed, have your circumstances changed considerably since that decision? Can you show and prove it?


4. Can you prove them wrong?

Can you, honestly and without a shadow of a doubt prove that their assumptions and presumptions are wrong?

Are you strong enough emotionally and prepared to engage in what may be a lengthy battle to prove them wrong?

Have you got the support network to help you do this, family, friends, access to support and help?

5. Money, money, money!

Perhaps the most important question of all is: can you support yourself if you leave? Fleeing is expensive. You may not be able to claim benefits in the country you flee to. In Ireland, for example, you have to be resident there for at least two years. There are exceptions to that rule and there may be ways to challenge it. You cannot rely on UK benefits as you can only claim them for up to three months after you leave the country, but it has been known for social services to report that you have left and to get your benefits stopped.


The question of supporting yourself is the most crucial if your move is to have any chance of long term success.


If you flee, what are your options?

Our network operates in 6 countries: Ireland, Denmark, Belgium, France, Spain and Northern Cyprus. Each choice comes with its own difficulties.


The initial starting point has to be whether you and your children have passports. Without them or the possibility of obtaining them quickly ie applying in person for a same-day passport, your options are limited. The UK government class an urgent need for a passport as within one month, so it may take up to a month to obtain an appointment for a same-day passport. There are rules as to the types of passport that can be obtained in this manner, for example it cannot be used for a first time adult passport application.


Without passports, 5 out of the 6 countries are a non-starter. Hence Ireland is the destination of choice for many UK fleeing parents. Ireland requires no passport for travel or entry for British citizens. If you fly, Ryanair require a passport but sometimes will waive it for a photographic driving licence if arranged in advance. Aer Lingus will accept photo ID and ferries often don’t ask for either.


There are other options with some parents fleeing to the far-east for example, but of course for many families the cost of this is prohibitive and is all too often far too removed from the language, culture and lifestyle of home.

A few words of warning...

Ireland is increasingly following in the UK's footsteps in implementing ever more draconian child protection measures and of greater concern is their willingness to work with their UK colleagues in helping 'return' children to the UK. The days of a 'gentler' social service approach in Ireland are increasingly fading.  Recently, even where the UK authorities are not requesting any 'return' the Child and Family Agency are of their own volition attempting to invoke procedures to 'return' children, even those babies born in Ireland.  This is not to say that Ireland cannot be an option but increasingly fleeing parents need the help of our Lay Advocates to instigate High Court actions for them.


North Cyprus is held up by many as a panacea for fleeing parents.  With no extradition and not a signatory to the Hague Convention on Child Abduction it is seen as a safe place. Sadly this is not an easy option. Unless you are exceptionally wealthy obtaining residency is very difficult - you will need to leave the state frequently to renew your visa and a worrying note from our contacts is that the Police have recently been visiting British families and interviewing children to ensure they want to be there.  They are happy to deport for any number of reasons, particularly visa violations. Be very wary before you choose this option. Contact us first and we can give you the current information. We have recently had a number of families move from North Cyprus because of the inherent difficulties.


Still want to flee? Check this checklist...

Choosing the fleeing option is not easy. With time and planning it can be relatively straightforward, but for most parents it is a last minute, panicked bid for escape. If you are ever faced with having to take that decision, a basic preparation check-list is essential. In the light of the ever growing and pervasive development of child-protection, every parent should follow this guide to ensure that if they are required to take this drastic step it is easy to organise.


1. No matter if social services have never darkened your door, ensure that you and your children have up to date passports. Even if you do not intend going abroad for holidays, it is worth the small cost to know that you can leave the country, for anywhere in the world (bar obtaining necessary visas for some countries) at any time.  There is a fast track system for obtaining passports, but as highlighted above it is not particularly fast if you are a first time adult applicant.


2. Keep all your passports, key paperwork (birth certificates, driving licences etc.) together in a large envelope or folder that can be simply picked up and taken with you. Also ensure that you keep any social services correspondence together and portable. Your contacts whilst fleeing may need it to help you fight your case.


3. Ensure you have appropriate suitcases, bags, hold-alls and the like to take enough clothing, toiletries etc for all your family.


4. Obtain a pre-pay credit card so that it can be topped up by family at home for you, as well as the option of topping up yourself.  You may need a credit card for transport, hotels etc. Being prepaid means that whatever your credit status, it is obtainable and also largely anonymous, which may be important. Even if you already have a credit card, a pre-paid one makes it harder to trace your whereabouts.


5.  Learn where your nearest departure points are. Find out the timetables for public transport, even if you own a vehicle, and how to book tickets etc. This may seem basic and can be done at the last minute, but if you are aware it gives a confidence to the plans you are making.


6. Speaking of plans, if you have the necessary passports/visas, work out a choice of countries to flee to and even the connections between and within them. It may be that you travel first to Ireland, but you do not want to end up in the middle of the country if you may then move on to France or Spain. Do you need to be near the key ports/airports etc?


7. Know how you may fund yourself. If you are on UK benefits, be aware of little snags like having to “sign on.”  For example is it feasible to realistically rely on your benefits or will you have to acquire employment as soon as possible on arrival.  Often social workers will help ensure benefits stop once it is understood you have actually left the country.  Be realistic about your options for funding. Will family/friends help?


8. Find out who the network contacts are.  Who can you turn to for help and support?  Do your homework and find a range of contacts who may help you.


9. Where possible arrange for a trusted family member or friend to have access to your home and mail to ensure you are up to date with the latest social work reports. This can be crucial, particularly if the Lay Advisors need access to reports to help build a case against the social services.


10. Do not advertise to family/friends your intentions. The less anyone knows the better.  Rely on e mail/twitter/facebook to maintain friendships and keep up to date with your wider world, but wherever possible do not advertise the fact that you will be leaving town.




Copyright 2015 P.I.N.