The Mail, as well as a variety of other news sources, report today on the tragic story of an elderly woman, 86 year old Betty Figg, with dementia who has been ‘’snatched’ by social workers from the loving home provided by her daughter, Rosalind Figg, and returned, with police assistance, back to the residential home from which she was taken.
Horrific, scandalous, indicative of the police state we now live in, evil interfering social workers, direct result of the government policies. Well, that’s some of the milder comments on the website.
Reading this story (with accompanying photos in the newspaper) really chilled my bones. Because I, myself, have done almost exactly the same thing. I didn’t write about it at the time for the sake of confidentiality but it follows a very very close mirror to the situation described in the newspaper and I will say no more.
What I can say is that on the basis of my knowledge of the law this can be the perception of what happened but it does not bear a relation to what would have been the reality.
The local newspaper, for example, describes the need for an assessment to take place – namely a Mental Health Act Assessment. Therefore it’s a fairly safe assumption that Mrs Figg has been removed from her daughter’s property under section 135 (1) of the Mental Health Act for removal to a ‘place of safety’ for an assessment.
The ‘place of safety’ in legal terms may be a specific place and isn’t necessary making any assumptions about the safety of her daughter’s home but of course this is the language that will be used by the local authority to describe the process – not necessarily the language that will be automatically understood by The Daily Mail. This application requires attendance by an Approved Mental Health Practitioner (probably the social worker in this case) and a doctor.
It would have been a decision made within a Community Mental Health Team and while a social worker might have been the AMHP, it is the Trust rather than the local authority with whom the responsibility for the decision would lie – so grabbing a quote from the local social services seems a little simple.
These circumstances just wouldn’t come into play with your standard ‘pleasantly confused’ elderly patient – this is someone at significant and imminent risk.
The warrant alleged Betty Figg was being mistreated or neglected.
Well, yes, that’s what all section 135 warrants basically say. Either that or that someone isn’t able to look after themselves but there has to be a reason that the warrant is required. A warrant was gained for entry. This means that the situation had to be presented in court to a magistrate with evidence of why it was needed. This is not a rubber-stamping process and magistrates can question and turn down warrants that are requested – however it was granted meaning there has to be more to this story than is shared by Rosalind Figg.
Rosalind Figg then comments
“They have not got any proof of that. Maybe my mother does forget a lot and she is confused – but we were having a lovely time.”
I know nothing of the situation in Coventry but you do not assess people who are comfortable and ‘pleasantly confused’ under the Mental Health Act. Especially not if you need to take them forcibly from their families’ home. There has to be an over-riding best interest.
The team and local authority are obliged to pay heed to the human rights involved.
This is not a question of overbearing social workers – the law does not allow that. The fact that the police were present indicates that inter-agency planning had gone ahead and that the event, however unpleasant, was following the legal procedures – which mean that the background situation and level of distress caused had been balanced against the level of immediate risk.
It is not a decision taken lightly or without significant proof of very real harm. Of course, the social workers and social services department are in no position to explain their case due to the limits of confidentiality.
It is though, cheap and lazy journalism. Anyone who had done an iota of research into the legalities of removing someone to a place of safety for an assessment would have a better understanding of the sensitivities of the situation.
I don’t really expect much more though.