Report warns of ‘devastating’ impact of parent-blaming FII accusations

A report into extreme cases of ‘parent blame’ in the children’s safeguarding system has warned that ‘devastating’ allegations against parents of disabled children are widespread and increasing.

The report considers the prevalence and impact on families in England, Scotland and Wales of being accused of creating or exaggerating their child’s difficulties – an extreme form of parent carer blame referred to as Fabricated or Induced Illness (FII).

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Conducted by the Cerebra project at Leeds University’s school of law, the research involved an analysis of data obtained from a survey of 387 parent carers, freedom of information requests and online searches of council websites.

The making of an FII allegation often causes devastating and lifelong trauma to those accused and to their children, and can trigger child protection proceedings and even the removal of the child.

The report found that FII allegations against parents of disabled children appear to be widespread and increasing. Parents in at least 74% of English children’s services authorities have experienced FII allegations – and authorities in Scotland and Wales were also reported as initiating allegations of this nature.

Based on the survey of parent carers, disabled parents appear to be four times more likely to be accused of FII than non-disabled parents – suggesting a significant risk of widespread unlawful discrimination against disabled people, the report’s authors said.

Half of the allegations of FII against survey respondents were made after a parent carer had complained about the actions of the relevant public body. NHS practitioners were the source of most FII allegations, followed by schools and then local authority children’s services.

Most FII allegations (84%) resulted in no follow-up action or were abandoned and in 95% of cases the child(ren) remained living with the parent. However, accusations of FII can remain on file even if no further action was taken.

Professor Luke Clements, who led the report, said: ‘The evidence suggests a significant increase in the numbers of parents – especially disabled parents – being inappropriately accused of FII. These allegations have a devastating and often lifelong impact on families – including their children: the very people the system is supposed to protect. There is an urgent need for a radical overhaul of policy and practice in this field.’

The report warned that FII guidance published by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health is likely to give rise to a very high number of people being wrongly accused of FII.

Image: Daiga Ellaby

More on this topic:

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Regulator calls for improvements in Sussex NHS trust’s children’s mental health services


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