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Learning Disabilites Case
Case report in Nottingham Evening Post 17 June 2009
A LAWYER is calling for a review of the way people with learning disabilities are treated after a second Nottingham woman had her children removed because social workers decided she was not intelligent enough to care for them.
The Post has already reported on the case of Rachel Pullen, 24, whose daughter was taken into care soon after being born.
However, solicitor Simon Leach, of Nottingham Family Law Group, says another 24-year-old woman was recently prevented from objecting to her daughters' adoption because of her low IQ
Mr Leach, who has been assisting the unnamed 24-year-old in the so-called stupid mum case, said the final hearing was held last week - and although he was impressed by how the woman's understanding had developed, it was too late to make any difference to the adoption. Mr Leach said: "The issue is whether or not these parents are identified at an early enough stage, and whether there is enough input from Nottingham City Council to offer them support which they need to improve upon their level of understanding."
Ms Pullen is continuing her court battle to prevent her daughter being adopted. Last week Nottingham City Council was granted a permanent injunction by Family Division judge Mr Justice Hedley banning publication of the name of her daughter, her present or future whereabouts, or the names of the present or any future carers.
Ms Pullen has contact with her daughter once a month. She said as she left court: "Social workers tell me she will be adopted within three months, but I have been given contact with her for the next six months.
"She calls asks why she can't live with me. They have said I lack parenting skills and would not be able to take her to the doctor. But it is hard to keep track of their excuses. I will continue to fight the adoption and am taking my case to the European Court of Justice."
Ms Pullen is being assisted by Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming, who has raised the case in Parliament. He said there were various applications pending to stop the adoption.
"The argument they used to take [her daughter] away in the first place was that she was ill and Rachel was so stupid she was incapable of taking her to the doctor or looking after her," said Mr Hemming.
He said he believed that argument was "complete rubbish and ludicrous".
He added: "The Family Justice system is on trial here. The expert claimed that Rachel had learning difficulties, and that has been proved to be wrong."
A spokesman for Nottingham City Council said they were not able to comment on individual cases
Sunday Times Article 15th June 2009
A SECOND case has emerged of a woman who has had her children taken away from her and been prevented from objecting because she was judged "too stupid" by the authorities.
Lawyers acting for the 24-year-old from Nottingham, who has had two daughters adopted, say she has since shown herself far brighter than was believed when the original judgment was made.
But it is now too late for her to go back to court for the return of her children.
Last month, The Sunday Times reported a similar case of a mother deemed too unintelligent to care for her child.
The plight of the women has highlighted the role of the official solicitor, the state lawyer appointed to represent them, but who declined to contest either case.
New figures show that hundreds of parents have had the official solicitor, currently Alastair Pitblado, imposed.
Since January 2006 his department has been brought in to represent 588 parents deemed to "lack the mental capacity" to instruct lawyers in cases where their children faced the possibility of adoption.
Last month The Sunday Times highlighted the case of Rachel, also a 24-year-old from Nottingham, who is taking her legal challenge to the European Court of Human Rights after her three-year-old daughter was ordered to be adopted because she was ruled not to be intelligent enough to care for her.
In the latest case the mother's two daughters were both adopted in 2006 after a health worker noticed that her living conditions were unsatisfactory.
Before the case was finalised in court, however, it was decided that the woman lacked the intelligence to instruct her own lawyer, which led to the official solicitor being brought in. A psychologist's report gave her a low IQ but said her learning disability would improve in time.
The mother insisted that she wanted to keep her girls but the official solicitor said she did not have a case at the time and did not contest the adoptions on her behalf.
Her solicitor, Simon Leach, who runs Nottingham Family Law Group, said: "I would have liked her to have given evidence, or certainly have someone speak on her behalf, so it could be explained at length why she should keep her children. But the system would not allow it.
"At that time she had little or no understanding of what her children needed but she was very loving of her children and still is.
"But I sat down with her last week and she was using words she could never have used before. It was clear to me that her level of understanding had improved considerably."
Leach said there were still question marks over whether she would be able to care properly for the girls but since the adoption had already happened the issue could no longer be addressed. "It's too late now," he said. He added that his firm had been involved in up to 20 cases in which their clients were handed over to the official solicitor.
The official solicitor typically declines to contest any final care orders.
Leach said this was because the system did not allow the official solicitor to do so.
He said: "I think the official solicitor should be able to put a case. It's not just about justice, it's about justice being seen to be done."