Yorkshire Post – Nov 24, 2012
AN under fire Yorkshire council has sparked outrage by removing three children from the care of foster parents because they are members of the UKIP political party.
Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council removed the children because the couple’s political affiliation was seen as being at odds with the youngsters’ European backgrounds.
By the council’s own admission the youngsters were happy and there was no question mark over the foster parents’ provision of care.
Tonight, council leader Roger Stone announced the Labour-run authority would investigate what had happened after mounting condemnation from political leaders including Education Secretary Michael Gove and Labour leader Ed Miliband.
Mr Stone said: “We are going to investigate to make sure everything has been done professionally.
“If the professionals give advice, we take it.
“We are going to investigate – we always would if somebody complains.
“We are looking to make sure all the correct procedures were carried out before the decision was made.
“There is no policy, as has been implied, that if you are a British National Party member you can’t foster children.”
Mr Gove said social workers had made “the wrong decision in the wrong way for the wrong reasons” and that he would be personally investigating and exploring steps to “deal with” the situation.
The politician, who heads the Government department responsible for children’s services and who was himself adopted as a child, accused Rotherham of sending out a “dreadful signal”.
He said: “Rotherham council have made the wrong decision in the wrong way for the wrong reasons.
“Rotherham’s reasons for denying this family the chance to foster are indefensible.
“The ideology behind their decision is actively harmful to children. We should not allow considerations of ethnic or cultural background to prevent children being placed with loving and stable families.
“We need more parents to foster, and many more to adopt.
“Any council which decides that supporting a mainstream UK political party disbars an individual from looking after children in care is sending a dreadful signal that will only decrease the number of loving homes available to children in need.
“I will be investigating just how this decision came to be made and what steps we need to take to deal with this situation.”
The children, a baby girl, a boy and an older girl, were removed by social workers after the council reportedly received an anonymous tip-off about the foster parents’ membership of the right-wing party which wants withdrawal from the European Union and immigration curbs.
Social workers said they were concerned about the children’s “cultural and ethnic needs”.
The South Yorkshire couple claimed a social worker told them Ukip was “racist”.
Mr Miliband said: “Being a member of Ukip should not be a bar to adopting or fostering children.
“We need an urgent investigation by Rotherham Council into the circumstances of this case.
“I don’t know all the facts of this case but I am clear, what matters is children in Rotherham and elsewhere, and being a member of a political party like Ukip should not be a bar to fostering children.
“We need to find out the facts and the council urgently needs to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.
“The couple concerned are making extremely serious claims, very disturbing claims.
“Right-thinking people across the country will think there are thousands of children who need to be looked after, who need fostering, we shouldn’t have the situation where membership of a party like Ukip excludes you from doing that.
“We need loving homes for children across the country.
“That can come in different forms, it’s not about what political party you are a member of.”
Ukip leader Nigel Farage called for resignations over what he said was an “appalling” decision.
Accusing the council of bigotry, he said he felt: “Very upset and very angry, particularly for the couple involved, who have been fostering for many years and are very decent people, and the awful shock to them of having these children removed, not to mention the upset to the children themselves.
“Politically, I’m afraid not surprised at all.
“This is typical of the kind of bigotry we get from the Labour Party and from Labour controlled councils.
“It was the Labour government that opened the doors to uncontrolled mass immigration into this country on a scale that we have never seen in the history of the island.
“And then anybody who tries to discuss or debate the issue is written off as being racist.”
Joyce Thacker, the council’s strategic director of children and young people’s services, said the decision to remove the children was taken after consultation with lawyers.
Asked what the specific problem was with the couple being Ukip members, Mrs Thacker told BBC Breakfast: “We have to think about the clear statements on ending multi-culturalism for example.
“These children are from EU migrant backgrounds and Ukip has very clear statements on ending multiculturalism, not having that going forward, and I have to think about how sensitive I am being to those children.”
She added that there was no issue about the quality of care the couple provided and said she would co-operate with any investigation.
The children, who stayed with the couple for eight weeks, were encouraged to speak their language which their foster parents were trying to learn, the foster mother said.
She denied that there had been any discussion between the family and Rotherham Council before the children were removed.
The woman said the council feared the couple could not meet the children’s cultural needs in the long term – a claim the family denied.
The woman added: “We were actively encouraging these children to speak their own language and to teach us their language.
“We enjoyed singing one of their folk songs in their native language, and having been told of the religious denomination of these children we took steps to ensure that a school of their denomination was found.”
The foster mother claimed the children have been placed with families who are also white British, and she questioned how the council thought these couples could fulfil the children’s cultural needs.