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The 2013 ICPC

11th June 2013. I returned to Nottingham in stealth mode, ready to fight. I had a mountain of paperwork showcasing years of appointments, years of wasted time in which my youngest son was punished at school for being autistic. The boys had been telling me stories of times at school that had me in tears. Things they hadn't shared before as I always supported the school. My heart broke, and the rage inside me just wouldn't subside. I promised my boys I would protect them against anyone, mum wasn't scared of anyone and they were finally safe from harm. I placed a verbal shield around them, and went into battle.

Nottinghamshire County Council logo

But I WAS scared. I was terrified. I contacted my mother, and asked her if she would put herself forward to take the boys should the worst happen. I had to keep them out of the care system, at any cost. But my mother wasn't interested. She had never approved of my decision to give up on a career and survive on benefits to focus on the boys. She also believed my boys were just badly behaved, and that their behaviour was ultimately the result of my bad parenting. She didn't believe an authority could target innocent people, in her words "there's no smoke without fire". She thought if the protection conference concluded that the boys should be taken into care, then maybe that would be best for them.

My kids only surviving grandparent would have sent them to care, as some kind of 'told-you-so' lesson to her wayward daughter. My siblings sided with her. My family was fucked. Me and the boys were on our own.

Child protection conference rules assessing risk, professionals invited, disclosure of reports prior to meeting

The conference was packed, full of professionals I'd never met. We sat in a gloomy office with a number of 2-seat school desks, arranged in a large square. I sat as close to the door as I could, clutching a carrier bag full of paperwork. The chair, sitting opposite me, introduced herself, and we went around the table; next to the chair was the person taking notes for the record - not involved but introduced, then the safeguarding officer from D's new secondary school Djanogly - never met her, then the 'school nurse' covering D's school - never met her. Another unknown school nurse covering Netherfield Primary school - again not personally met, followed by Sharon Jackson the head, and Leslie Balfe who was some kind of support staff. A couple more unknowns from the police, me with a friend I've known many years for support, and finally Sandra Stocken with Paul Scott, the social worker who had been gaslighting me for weeks, demanding to reassess my boys.

The chair then paused the meeting, to allow me to read the reports that hadn't been shared with me beforehand as is legally required. The legislation states these reports should be disclosed 48 hours before the conference, but I was allowed 10 minutes to read them.

The chair then went on to explain the process;

the chair would outline the areas of concern, then we would move around the table and each professional who had submitted a report would confirm their position. At the end, we would again go around the table, and everyone would vote on the direction of the outcome, either the boys would be removed from my care, or they would stay with me but be the subject of 'child protection plans', or they would be the subject of 'child in need (of additional services) plans'.

The chair outlined the concerns that led to the conference; I was being accused of 'hidden emotional abuse in the home', emotional harm, and neglect. My mental health was a concern, and I was accused of having personality disorders and even ME. Apologies were sent by Dr Jane Williams our paediatrician, and Dr Steve Wilde my GP. The 2 professionals who knew us best couldn't attend due to lack of notice apparently. I later discovered Dr Williams wasn't even aware of the conference.

We went to social services first. They outlined their own concerns, that the boys have complex needs and I am refusing to engage in assessments. That I had removed the boys from the 'safety' of school and they were now unsupervised by professionals, potentially suffering unknown harm with no-one to turn to. Paul Scott then gushed about how he'd repeatedly tried to engage with me but that I was hostile and unapproachable, I shout and scream, and that he was concerned the boys were 'scared' of me when I shouted. There was concerns that I had 'undiagnosed mental health conditions'. They were recommending child protection, of course.

We then went to Sharon Jackson, who confirmed the social workers concerns, and went on to say that although I had taken steps to deregister B and K from Netherfield Primary school, she was 'keeping their places open' (and keeping the funding coming) so they could be returned to school if that was part of any plan. She confirmed school was recommending child protection.

The police had nothing, literally nothing to report. I had no criminal record, and the boys were not known to their youth team. They couldn't make a recommendation either way.

We moved on to the school nurses, who had written some quite ambiguous reports. One literally stated 'I have not been to the property, but I believe the family live in a 3 bedroom house...' she then went on to describe the home being 'chaotic' and 'disorganised', due to the 'overcrowded situation'. My temper boiling, I jumped on this one. "How can you comment on the state of my house if you've never actually been in it? THIS IS BULLSHIT! I don't even know who you are. Who are you?"

I was furious. Several times I'd attempted to argue but been silenced, 'until it was my turn', but fuck that, I'd had enough. These were literally total strangers, writing things they'd obviously been told to write, and I wasn't taking anymore. Once again, the chair told me to calm down. You'll get your time at the end, she kept saying, but I wasn't having any more of this. When I'm truly riled, I have what I describe as a 'psycho face'. I once caught a glimpse of myself in full rage in a mirror, and honestly it was kinda scary. By this point I was raging, psycho face in full form, and I was glaring at these lying bastards. Once again the chair, giving me far too many chances, asked me to calm down, I'd get my turn.

Finally, we went to the safeguarding officer at Djanogly. She introduced herself, and explained how D had arrived in their school with a large file, considered to be a child at risk. She said she took her job very seriously, and that she had covertly watched D closely over the past school year. The whole time she spoke she stared at me, but not in a threatening or judgemental way. She was speaking to me, as a person, almost as if nobody else was in the room.

She then explained that in her professional opinion, D was at no risk of harm, that rather D and his brothers had a mother who was proactive, passionate, intelligent, and highly motivated to do the best for her children. The child she had read about in the files sent to the school, was not the child she had observed, and she was so concerned about the unsubstantiated information on D's records that she was going to rewrite his records. She described me as easy for school to engage with, and that she wished more parents were like me. She hoped D would continue at Djanogly and while she believed as a family we were in need of additional services, she did not recommend child protection. I was blown away. She smiled at me.

It was my turn. I spread out my piles of letters, appointments, reports, CAMHS assessments, and the final medical diagnoses of autism earlier that year. I accused school of abusing my kids by physical restraint, I accused social services of failing to provide any support despite annual assessments. I asked why the meeting was full of people I had never met, yet our doctor and paediatrician were missing. Dr Williams had actually complimented me in her last report, when K was considered in serious crisis. She had also mentioned that at that point that there was another 'multiagency plan being initiated'. Another plan that led to absolutely no support and them closing on us again. I laid it all out, I accused them all of trafficking my kids to hide their abuse. I told Sharon she would never see my boys again.

Excerpt of paediatrician report

Finally, the chair summed up. She again outlined the concerns raised, but dismissed them all as being unfounded. In her opinion, I was a good enough parent, that the boys complex needs did require some external agency support, but that this didn't warrant a child protection plan. In her words, "the people sat around this table raising concerns for these boys, will not be in the boys lives in 5 years, but mum will". She then directed a vote, every person was asked to vote yes or no to a child protection plan; Djanogly voted no plan, the school nurses, based on evidence they had seen and heard today, voted no plan, the police voted no plan, Sharon stuck by her belief that the boys needed child protection so she voted yes for a plan, Leslie Balfe attempted to dodge the vote by keeping her head down, but the chair insisted she vote, so she went with school and voted yes. She couldn't look at me. Social services voted for a protection plan. I voted for no plan.

Only school and social services, who had both engineered the conference, voted for protection plans. They lost. The chair announced that due to the boys complex needs, that they should instead be subject to child in need or CIN plans. I objected, I'd had enough of these lying professionals, I didn't trust anyone anymore. But the chair insisted, and the decision was made: CIN plans. I knew we had to leave Nottingham, this time for good. A date was set for the first CIN meeting, the 19th July 2013. As we ended the conference, I told those around me not to bother with the next meeting, that we were leaving Nottingham. The chair made some comment about people saying things in anger and that she hoped I'd engage for the boys sake. I said I'm leaving Nottingham, watch me.

Within hours, I was searching rental properties in East Yorkshire, preparing to give up my 12 year council tenancy to keep my boys safe. We had to go...

Our house in Netherfield

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