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Penny Booth: What were we expecting, then?

Date:25 NOV 2010

Penny Booth in the SnowWell, now the cuts in the current financial climate are beginning to bite and Legal aid begins to become a memory, winter is here and social care becomes thinner than Oliver Twist's winter jumper.

There are so many stories (some exaggerated, most not) many of which have so much of the truth in them that they really need highlighting. This is not so that we can actually do anything about it (student protests at university costs affecting families - where do they think the money comes from ultimately? - demonstrates the element of futility there) but they need mention so that we know the implications of what is being done. ‘Not in my name' is not good enough.

A few weeks ago Slough Council's announcement of a reduction in payments made to foster carers made some small headlines - it probably deserved bigger ones. Some people are surprised at the large amounts received by foster carers, (I don't personally think they are large, but they are larger than I thought) but looking after (somebody else's) sometimes difficult children with all their own special problems deserves a payment. It is true to say, though, that it is doubtful that anyone would actually enter into foster care as a career choice. Wonder how many think about doing so, or how many feel they might move on to adoption? Anyway - Slough have hit the headlines by reducing hugely the sum paid for first children being looked after, although other payments remain the same. This will hit people looking after children in this way very hard - the loss of £200 per week is quite simply massive. Would a member of the government do it for that price? Probably not, but they are willing to do things which have a price for others. Are we willing to allow social care budgets to be reduced so massively? Reordering of priorities may be required. We have to realise what it costs to actually value this - talking the talk is easy.

I am delighted to read about the pilot that will give police more powers to tackle domestic violence. As I fear very much that whilst inaccurate or untruthful accusations may rebound badly, and a person has the right to protect themselves from their ex-partner seeking a non-molestation order, it does seem wrong to me that the domestic violence provisions have not protected victims as they should have done. Individual stories are not the whole picture, but I know of a woman who has just paid 70 pounds to represent herself at her own molestation order hearing against an ex-partner who is legally aided. She has suffered five years (to my knowledge) of slashed tyres, paint and excrement on her doors and windows, telephone calls at all hours of the day and night, bullying activities and harassment from her ex-partner and his new partner. She has reported it to the police, had grainy video evidence taken by them, numerous reports to the local police station, kept letters on file and is now having to face her ex-partner's solicitor defending the alleged perpetrator - and he is legally-aided. I fear for the loss of Legal Aid which would reduce his opportunities to defend himself, but right now I fear for her more.

Why do we still put up with behaviour from ex partners (or current partners for that matter?) which, were it to be the action of a complete stranger swift action could be taken and the perpetrator would be arrested and dealt with immediately? I know the individual case needs argument, and my emotions assume she is right and he is wrong in the example given as that is the evidence I have - but the fact remains, we have failed to deal with domestic violence and it is now forty years since Errin Pizzey's ‘Scream Quietly or the Neighbours will hear' was published in paperback. What have we been doing? Help.

Penny sets the questions for Family Law journalCPD, a new way to gain CPD points by answering multiple choice questions based on the content of the journal.

She is an Honorary Research Fellow at Liverpool University Centre for the Study of the Child, the Family and the Law. Click here to follow Penny Booth on Twitter.

The views expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily those of Family Law or Jordan Publishing and should not be considered as legal advice.