Disabled Parent's Personal Experiences of Discrimination
Elizabeth has cerebral palsy and a young daughter. Her daughter was diagnosed with a different disability and the doctor suggested going to the hospital library to obtain leaflets groups for disabled children. After doing so, the librarian was immediately taken aback at Elizabeth's physical appearance and asked her how she copes. Elizabeth replied that she raises her daughter independently and manages just fine. The librarian didn't listen, insisting she must need 'a lot of help' and referred her to a social worker.
When the worker visited her home, Elizabeth asked about groups and outings for her daughter. The social worker said she didn't have that kind of information and instead suggested that Elizabeth have a home help and someone to help with bedtime routines. She informed the worker that she didn't need help with those things and was more than capable of putting her child to bed, who was by that time four years old and she had never utilized any services. The worker became offended that Elizabeth refused her offers and so reported her to child services for being 'non-compliant'. Child protection then wanted to visit, citing disability as the reason.
Jessica has a physical disability and two small children. When attempting to access information about services available to her, a social worker visited her home. The worker saw Jessica's one year old son crawling and attempting to pull himself up on a shelf containing DVD's. She suggested to Jessica that this was dangerous as the baby may knock one of the DVD's on his head. Jessica disagreed and pointed out that nearly everyone has a shelf of DVD's in their living room. The worker then said how hard it must be with 'her disability' and that she was just pointing out issues she might have missed. Jessica asked her to leave and was reported to child services.
Amanda has a physical disability and has two children. She chose to home educate them for philosophical reasons. She attended a SureStart Christmas party with her children and mentioned that she home educates. She was reported to child services by a Surestart worker who suggested that she was 'keeping the children at home so they could 'care' for her.
Child services then telephoned and asked to visit. Amanda asked why and they stated that she was disabled and was home educating. She informed them that being a disabled parent was not a child protection issue and that home education was perfectly legal in the UK and she pointed out that had she not been disabled, they would not have asserted that she chose home education so her children could care for her - because of that, she was not consenting to a visit..
She then went to her solicitor and he drew up a letter asking social services to outline their child protection concerns in writing.
Months later they finally wrote back saying they had no grounds to visit and closed the file..Amanda will not attend SureStart groups anymore after her experience.
Alexandra has a physical disability. She is a single mother with a baby. One day she suffered crippling back pain, blood in her urine and was finding it too painful to bend. She dialled NHS Direct for advice. They asked her to come to hospital to be checked over. She asked for a hospital taxi to be sent as she cannot drive due to the disability. At hospital they diagnosed a kidney infection and gave her antibiotics. The NHS Direct nurse also reported her to child services.
When confronted by Alexandra, the nurse admitted she made the referral because Alexandra said she had a disability but she didn't identify what disability and she was a single mother so there was no one to help with the baby while she was unable to bend from the kidney infection, so she thought the baby 'would be better off with someone else.'
Alexandra complained about disability discrimination but NHS Direct refused to answer her calls to even begin a complaint's process.
If it was suggested that a non-disabled mother had her baby removed from her care due to a kidney infection, all hell would break loose - but people in positions of power think they have the right to do exactly that with disabled mothers. Alexandra does not use NHS's 111 service anymore.
Melanie is a mum of a 2 year old daughter. She has multiple schlerosis so she hired a home help via social services to help with household chores. She had chosen to co-sleep with her daughter in the same bed. Her adult care social worker then told her that unless she forced her daughter to sleep separately, she would be taken into care. Melanie was too frightened to realise that whether to co-sleep is a parental decision she had the right to make, as any other parent, so she gave in to bullying and put her daughter to bed in a separate room.
Robert has a genetic disability and is a father. He was the victim of a crime when someone slashed the tyres on his car, so he telephoned police. When the police officer arrived, she noticed Robert was limping - which is a feature of his disability - and reported him to child services, stating that he had either 'had a stroke' or 'was drunk in charge of children.' Robert was not drunk and had not had a stroke, although even if he had, that wouldn't have been a reason for state interference with his children. When child services tried to visit, Robert quite rightly refused to allow them entry as he viewed this as a hate crime.
Georgia was a physically disabled mother with four children. She was going through a divorce when her youngest was a baby. In a dispute, her ex took her newborn by force. She phoned police but when they attended her home they refused to uphold her residency order. She was left to beg her ex to return her baby and it was more than 24 hours before he did. Georgia's solicitor asked for the police record and it was then that they received a letter from the police stating that the baby wasn't returned because 'there were disability issues.' Georgia complained to the constabulary and the Chief of Police apologised to her over the phone. He promised to send the apology in writing but never did. When Georgia telephoned to complain she was cut off the phone several times. Eventually she received a curt answer machine message saying 'we thought this matter had been dealt with.'
Lucy is a single mother of two and she has a disability. At her health visitor checks, the health visitor asked whether she could bath her children and do laundry. Lucy was offended as she had years of experience raising her family alone and had never accessed any assistance, so she viewed the questions as disability discrimination and refused to answer them.
One day, the children had been visiting their father for several days when he returned them for a health visitor check. At this check the health visitor wrote false records, stating that the children appeared not to have been bathed. She didn't realise that they had been with their dad for days and had only just been returned. The health visitor then reported Lucy to child services and they informed her that unless she consented to them bathing her children every day, they would put them in foster care. One morning she decided to go to toddler group and because she wasn't at home when social services arrived, they called the police and she then had to explain where she'd been. What followed was two years of 'spot checking' by social workers. Lucy always could bath her children and managed independently. She was unable to remove the false record from her children's notes and could only comment upon it.
Daniel and Laura
A married couple were expecting their first child. Laura had knee osteoarthritis after an injury. She was frightened of hospitals so they planned a home birth. The delivery didn't go to plan so she was transported to hospital where they asked to do a forceps delivery. She agreed but only if she could be asleep during it as she was too scared. The staff became hostile and accused her of being a 'combative patient'. They did concede to the anaesthetic but were negative towards her from that point on. She was worried about mercury that was present in childhood vaccinations at the time and tried to discuss it with the midwife. She was then reported to child services for 'not listening to medical advice' and 'having knee arthritis with a baby when husband is not in during the day.'
Social services took medical custody of the baby and gave the couple supervised visitation in a home where they were monitored by social workers. They did not allow them to use cloth nappies on their son because they said they were 'unsanitary' and they refused to let Laura cook her baby's food and instead insisted she buy jarred food. After three months of constantly watching Laura, she had proved her osteoarthritis did not impact on her ability to parent so physical and medical custody was returned to the parents. When speaking to a patient rights group about it, the couple said they were so traumatised by the whole ordeal that they were not going to have anymore children.
Sarah is a single mother and a wheelchair user. As her daughter is also disabled she qualified for a taxi to transport her to school, which was arranged by the school. When Sarah became involved in a custody dispute with her ex, CAFCASS became involved.and they interviewed her daughter's teachers. Her teacher reported that the girl was frequently late for school and they thought it was 'the circumstances at home' (i.e. Sarah's disability). However, the reason she was late was because the taxi arrived 10 minutes late each morning and was not Sarah's fault. Sarah had only met her daughter's class teacher once at a parent's evening as he had recently taken over the class and she had only spoken to him for a few minutes, but he saw her wheelchair and deduced from that that it must be her 'care' needs that made the child late.
When Sarah informed CAFCASS that her daughter went to school by school taxi that they themselves had arranged, it was incorrectly suggested that she may be late leaving the house due to 'caring' for her mother. Sarah pointed out that the taxi company didn't wait as they had a group of other disabled children to pick up for school and had to stick to a strict time schedule. This was confirmed by the company, yet it wasn't removed from the CAFCASS report and they used it as a reason to remove Sarah's child from her. No apology was made about the false accusation of the child 'caring'. Sarah had a subsequent child whom she now home educates due to the teacher's prejudice attitude towards her and the risk that future prejudism may pose to her relationship with her second child.
Names have been changed to protect the identities of the disabled parents and children involved.
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Nathan is a house-husband with a disability. He has two daughters and had accessed 'help' via social services. Social workers did not provide any support and bullied and pressured him into doing things he did not want to. As he also was a survivor of being abused as a child, this treatment of him gave him depression and suicidal thoughts for which he was hospitalised. They blamed him for his daughter's behaviour issues which actually turned out to be autism and when discussing the children they would only speak to his 'abled' wife and refused to talk to him even though he had been their main carer. When he complained they would only speak through his wife to tell her they'd closed his file. He described social services as 'pure evil' and will not be accessing their services again.