Friday, 22 January 2010

Dear Fife Social Services...

Nursing Matters

..advocating for breastfeeding babies.. everywhere

From: Morgan Gallagher, chairperson

January 22nd, 2010

To: Stephen Moore, Executive Director, Social Work, Fife Social Work Department, Rothesay House, Rothesay Place, Glenrothes, KY7 5PQ Tel: 08451 555555 ext. 444112 | Fax: 01592 583253

cc: Nicola Sturgeon, Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, St. Andrew’s House, Regent Road, Edinburgh EH1 3DG +44 (0)131 556 8400. FAX: 0131 348 5949

cc: Mike Brady, Baby Milk Action, 34 Trumpington Street, Cambridge, CB2 1QY, UK. From the UK phone: 01223 464420 From outside the UK phone +44 1223 464420 Email:

Dear Mr Moore,

I’m writing as chair of an NGO, to express our utmost concerns over the handling of the removal of Ben Robertson, from his mother’s breast, this past weekend, under the direction of your Social Work department.

Breastfeeding, as you will know, is a human right. We are concerned that Ben Robertson’s Human Rights are being infringed by the actions of your social work department.

As we understand it, Ben was removed from his mother’s breast on day 4 of his life, and he is only being allowed access to his mother for 2 hours every other day. This is totally unsupportable. I would draw your attention to the following ruling from the English and Welsh courts:

"Per curiam. If the state, in the guise of a local authority, seeks to remove a baby from his parents at a time when its case against the parents has not yet even been established, then the very least the state can do is to make generous arrangements for contact, those arrangements being driven by the needs of the family and not stunted by lack of resources. Typically, if this is what the parents want, one will be looking to contact most days of the week and for lengthy periods. Local authorities also had to be sensitive to the wishes of a mother who wants to breast-feed, and should make suitable arrangements to enable her to do so, and not merely to bottle-feed expressed breast milk. Nothing less would meet the imperative demands of the European Convention on Human Rights."...
In the matter of unborn baby M; R (on the application of X and another) v Gloucestershire County Council.
Citation: BLD 160403280; [2003] EWHC 850 (Admin). Hearing Date:
15 April 2003 Court: Administrative Court. Judge: Munby J. Abstract. Published Date 16/04/2003

Whilst this is the English and Welsh courts, it refers to the European Court in terms of its ruling on Human Rights. Therefore you’d think that a Scottish council, would be aware of the magnitude of the injury that has been inflicted upon Ben.

Lack of breastfeeding injures Ben’s health. It increases his chances of several life threatening illnesses. As a breastfed baby, removed from his mother’s breast, his pain and anxiety will be extreme. Babies removed from their mother’s breast in this fashion, often suffer a lifetime of stress and the medical results of such stress. I don’t feel I need to outline the entire catalogue of disaster that could be triggered in Ben’s life, by the lack of provision to accommodate his well being, whilst his care order is being processed. The risks of not breastfeeding are well documented, and the risk of harm to Ben from removal of his mother’s breast should have been part and parcel of the risk assessment of the care package being offered to support Ben at this extremely vital time.

We are extremely concerned about the apparent lack of thought about any aspect of maintaining Ben’s breastfeeding. Why, for instance, were Ben and his mother not removed to a mother and baby unit, where they could be monitored? As Fife is in charge of this care order, we require that Fife stand responsible for the arrangements.

Why is regular daily access to allow breastfeeding to be established, not in place? Has the mother received adequate lactation support, to prevent her suffering pain and the loss of her milk supply? Our understanding is that the mother has requested her milk to be fed to Ben – has this been carried out? Has she been taught to hand express? Is her milk being collected and taken to Ben? Has she been supplied with an industrial grade hospital pump? Her milk supply would be barely in on day 4, has Ben’s milk been protected? Is he being cup fed to protect his ability to latch? Has the foster family been told that Ben should not be given a dummy or pacifier, if he has never had one, in line with NHS and WHO guidance on protecting and establishing breastfeeding in the newborn?

The mother is still the mother, and as the above court ruling makes clear – it is the duty of social services to support the baby’s breastfeeding, in order to protect the Human Rights of the Child. We see no evidence of this in your reported care plan for Ben.

We protest in the strongest possible terms, and ask that adequate facilities are immediately put in place to support Ben’s breastfeeding, at all costs. Formula feeding is a risk activity – it risks Ben’s health both directly, and indirectly. On this, there is no confusion or doubt. As a child in the care of Fife Social Services, you have a duty to uphold Ben’s Human Rights, and to allow him access to his mother’s breast in order to support his breastfeeding. At the very least, you can ensure that formula is not given to Ben unless the mother herself wishes it.

I look forward to your early reply to our concerns and questions. We can supply expert witness, on all the statements I have made above, as well as extend any professional help that Fife may require in making sure that Ben’s needs are met adequately under the care order. We have been campaigning for years for adequate guidelines to be published by the Department of Children, Family and Schools to enable them to care for the needs of breastfed children, whilst their safety is assessed. We do understand the complete lack of appropriate guidance leaves you in a vacuum.

However, the vacuum that Ben is now in, without access to his mother’s breast, is completely intolerable. I’m sure that many others in the lactation community will be in touch, to request that Ben’s rights are upheld at all costs. Until a permanent order is in place, removing the mother’s rights to her child, Ben’s breastfeeding should be upheld – it is his right.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you require further information


Morgan Gallagher

Chair, Nursing Matters


If you wish to also complain, do not complain about the removal. You cannot complain about the removal, and be heard. It is their right, and brief, to assess for harm. They have a duty to the child, to keep it safe. That's why the complaint is about not making provision for breastfeeding, whilst that assessment is made. It is no business of ours, to second guess the assessment. Only after the assessment, can comment be made on the outcome. The issue is the care provision.


Crank Parent said...

Email sent to Nicola Sturgeon. I can't contain my sadness and anger over this.

Morgan said...

Anonymous said...

I've asked if they can consider 24/7 access with either a family member supervising, in a mother-baby unit or foster placement to uphold Ben's right to breastfeed.

As we know this happened very successfully in another local authority when separation loomed for a breastfed child. Child's needs were met by breastfeeding, LA's needs for childs safety were met by supervisory capacity being in place.

Morgan said...

There are so many many options.


leboeufsurletoit said...

Sent to Jo Swinson MP with LibDem link


ps what's the FB page?

Morgan said...

melissa said...

Dear Morgan,
I have been the MKF for Kerry and Mark since this fiasco began and what you say about the legalities of the time allowed for breast feeding is correct.
I would like to draw your attention to another newly born baby removed from the Victoria Hospital by Fife Social Services at app 24hrs old. On that occasion the young SW refused to listen to my claims of the Laws surrounding babies and breast feeding in the event of the removal of the baby. Her reply was "well she'll just have to express her milk then". "I'll see if we can get one of those pump things" When I outlined that this was against her (the baby) human rights and that time had to be made in order to allow the baby to be breastfed she again replied that this was up to them and they would decide if and when the baby could be breastfed. I was appaulled. I explained that you would be force feeding a baby that had nevr had latex in her mouth before, her reply was as ignorant "Well she wont be the first or the last to be bottle fed, it never done any harm to my kids"
When I asked her about the first contact to allow feeding her reply was she would check and get back to us. I reminded her under Scottish Law that there had to be a hearing within 24 hrs if a sect 57 had been issued, she again stated she would get back to us. To send a Social Worker ignorant of the Laws surrounding the removal of a baby, with no answers to give the greiving mother in my opinion is unacceptable. I do not beleive in the removal of any new born baby no matter what te circumstances, there is always the mother and baby unit route to investigate, Regretablly in this case Fife Social Services did no investigation of their own, which they should by statute, instead the baby was moved back to her place of residence by Social Workers, without a care order being issued at night.
If this draconian measure has to be taken, at least pay the parents the courtesy of sending a Social Worker with more life experience, knowledgeable of the Laws surrounding the removal of the baby and be able to give the parents the answers they are so desperate to know. It would be an excellent idea for all SW's that work with children to sit some type of test on their knowledge of the legalities of such as nobody at the Childrens Panel inclusive of the Authority Reporter had heard of the Munby ruling.
M. Reid