Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Letter to Fife Social Services

This letter was written by Morgan Gallagher, in regards to baby Ben being taken away from his parents.

Morgan's blog is here:

Baby Ben's story is here:

The facebook group in support of Ben's parents is here:

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.

1 comment:

justice is coming said...

Thankyou for raising this important issue sadly this is not an isolated case but is happening all over the uk where babies are being taken as soon as they are born and denied the basic right to breast milk.