Do you still call that country “civilized”? Shall we copy them because they are British? Advanced? Shall we adopt those atrocious practices at home, and destroy our families as they do?
Dr Hibbert charged local authorities £6,000 a week for every family in his care and £210 an hour to read documents such as medical records. His company, Assessment in Care, made a profit of around £460,000 in 2007 from its arrangement with social services.
In the last article, you can read how creatively SS torture families.
She was one of hundreds of parents sent there over the years, who spent up to 14 weeks at a time having every aspect of their behaviour and interaction with their children monitored and recorded as part of their assessment. The opinion of Dr Hibbert – who trained as a psychiatrist in Oxford and worked in the NHS for 20 years before setting up in private practice – was key in deciding whether a child should be allowed to stay with its mother or father.
As part of their assessment, Maria and the other parents were set a number of weekly challenges. These included doing a large supermarket shop for about 14 residents and staff and involved loading and manoeuvring two heavily laden trolleys while simultaneously looking after their child. Another “challenge” required the parent to vacuum the stairs at the centres while holding their child.
But the tyre-changing exercise was the one Maria and the others dreaded most. This required the parent to wait until it was nearly time for the baby to be fed before driving into the country, accompanied by an assessor. Once in an isolated spot – by which time the child would, in all likelihood, have started crying for a feed – a “breakdown” would be staged. The parent would then be required to change the tyre while looking after the increasingly fractious baby. The challenge was designed to observe the parent’s interaction with their child in what was undoubtedly a stressful situation.
“I’d never changed a tyre before in my life,” says Maria, “but fortunately my baby was only whining a bit, so I could go back and forth from her to the tyre, comforting her and then working on the wheel. I managed to change the tyre and drove the six miles back to the centre to feed her.
“The stair-vacuuming task I passed easily, too, carrying my baby in one arm and hoovering with the other,” she continues. “But one poor 17-year-old girl failed. She was really upset.”
Maria maintains that she did all that was asked of her during the residential assessment, and that towards the end of the 13-week period Dr Hibbert indicated to her directly that he would recommend her as a fit mother.
“He told me he thought I was a good mother, even if I could be a bit emotional and temperamental,” she says.
A few days later, however, following a row between Maria and Dr Hibbert over what she claimed was the inappropriate behaviour of a male parent at the centre, he appeared to change his mind. Indeed, he is understood to have told social services that she had a level of personality dysfunction which, under stress, would lead to behaviour indicative of a personality disorder.
Maria was left shattered by Dr Hibbert’s comments – and by what happened next.
After receiving his report, together with the advice of social services, the family court ruled that Maria should not be given custody of her baby. In May 2010, after a period of foster care, custody was awarded to the father of the child. Maria was initially allowed only two hours a week contact under the supervision of social workers.
“Dr Hibbert said I behaved in an unpredictable way,” says Maria. “But everyone who knew me and saw me with my daughter said I was a good mother.”