I recently attended a very interesting talk by an organisation called Pause. Pause work with women who have experienced repeat removals of their children through care proceedings. The Pause programme aims to support women to break the cycle they are in, by assisting them to develop new skills, and to begin building a more positive future.
Pause does not assist women to have their children returned to their care, and instead focuses on helping them to address their, often long-standing, difficulties. The organisation originated in Hackney and has now secured funds from the Department of Education to test their approach in Hull, Greenwich, Islington, Newham and Southwark.
New approach for mothers
I think that any professional who works with parents involved in the care system will welcome a new approach being used to help mothers who have had multiple children removed. These are often the mothers who are among the most vulnerable members of society, and who require intensive support to break the damaging cycles they can become trapped in.
During Court proceedings mothers usually have a high level of support from their solicitor, the social work team, and other professionals, and they can be helped to obtain assistance such as drug and alcohol rehabilitation, psychotherapy and legal advice. However, once the Court proceedings have ended, if the child is not placed in the mother’s care, the support disappears very quickly, and the mother is left alone at a time when she will be particularly vulnerable.
Removal of children
The removal of multiple children will not just have a devastating impact on the mothers, it will also have a lasting impact on the children who have been removed. Recent research has shown the scale of this issue.
A study into the pattern of care proceedings covering a 7 year period up to 2014 showed a total of 46,094 mothers before the Court, of which 7,143 (15.5%) were mothers from whom at least one child had already been removed. Given that each mother may be linked to more than one child within the 7 year period, the total number of care applications associated with this group could be as high as 29%.
Pause estimates that 100 women, with a profile similar to the mothers they are currently supporting, could have 264 children between them over a 5 year period if they do not receive intervention, at a cost of almost £20 million. Their estimations also show that the cost of their organisation supporting these 100 women over a 5 year period would be approximately £9 million, which is clearly a significant savings in times when public resources are became ever more thinly stretched.
The benefits of Pause
Pause makes financial sense, and it also makes a huge difference to the women who engage with the project. They offer an intense programme of therapeutic, practical and behavioural support, tailored to each woman’s individual needs. This wide range of support is almost impossible for these mothers to identify and engage with on their own.
In order to qualify for support women must take a long acting reversible contraceptive. This could be seen as a controversial requirement, but Pause are clear that they are not engaged in social engineering, and the contraception is necessary to provide the mothers with a breathing space to make changes after having a child removed. It is hard for women to focus on themselves when they are pregnant, and worried about another set of Court proceedings being issued. All too often I have seen mothers pregnant again before the end of proceedings they are currently involved in, making it very difficult for them to make significant changes before new proceedings are issued.
Special Court for Women
There has recently been talk of a special Court for women who have experienced the removal of multiple children, similar to the model already established by the Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC). This seems a very sensible way forward as cases involving mothers who have had multiple children removed are a distinct class of cases, and a specialist Court could lead to more positive outcomes for both the mothers and their children.