Using the law to reduce disadvantage in the child protection process for Roma families and other marginalised groups

Following on from our Multimedia Toolkit for Roma Parents project, Law for Life is starting a new, two-year project focusing on Roma communities and other groups that may face multiple challenges when going through the child protection process or care proceedings.

 

What will we do?

  • Update Roma champions on procedural and legal changes in the child protection process relating to Covid-19 through training and information resources.
  • Address discrimination in the child protection process by increasing Roma champions’ knowledge of the legal and non-legal mechanisms that can be used to challenge discrimination.
  • Empower Roma parents to engage positively with safeguarding professionals through skills-focused training.
  • Adapt the successful training model for Roma champions to other marginalised communities (such as survivors of domestic abuse, people with mental health conditions, and Gypsy and Traveller groups).

 

Why are we doing this project?

Current statistics published by the Department of Education continue to show an increase in numbers of Roma children in the care system in England. Between 2015 and 2019, there was a 69% increase in the number of Gypsy/Roma children living in foster care. This is compared to a 12.5% increase for the total ‘in care’ population.[1]

Existing research tells us that socio-economic disadvantages play a significant part in the outcomes of child protection interventions. There are strong concerns, voiced by Roma NGOs, that the impact of Covid-19 is likely to amplify these disadvantages and that the number of Roma children ending up in child protection proceedings in the coming months is likely to rise.

In addition, Covid-19 lockdown measures caused many procedural changes for people going through the child protection process. Family courts have also been operating remotely and there are strong concerns about the impact of this on parents who have already found the court process difficult. As the recent report by the Nuffield Justice Observatory notes:

“Many parents involved in proceedings are daunted by the process, as well as being under emotional strain, and may find it difficult to speak at all, let alone ask for something to be explained again, or to interrupt to say they cannot understand or follow.”

Lack of understanding about so many procedural changes, combined with a reduced level of support from children’s centres or community organisations could leave Roma parents seriously disadvantaged through the child protection process.

Finally, there is an ongoing concern, highlighted during evaluation of our first project, about discriminatory practice during the child protection process and care proceedings that our partner organisations continue to encounter. We will work with Roma organisations to improve their awareness about legal and non-legal mechanisms that can be used to tackle discrimination. We will also aim to highlight good practice, improve collaboration with key safeguarding agencies and improve experiences of Roma parents when going through child protection or care proceedings.

 

Who will we work with?

We will work with Roma NGOs and initiatives across England. We will also outreach key safeguarding agencies, including children’s services, local safeguarding children boards, Cafcass, etc.

In the second phase of the project, we will work with champions based at organisations working with groups that are either overrepresented in the care system or face multiple challenges when going through the child protection process / care proceedings.

 

For further inquiries about this project, please contact Dada Felja: dada.felja@lawforlife.org.uk

 

[1]  https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/children-looked-after-in-england-including-adoption-2018-to-2019

Published: 12 January 2021

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