“Child Stealing” and the Tin Foil Hat Conspiracy Theorists

Ermintrude last week pointed out how David Lammy MP had played on exaggerated fears of social services taking peoples’ children away. It’s a pretty widespread fear, but one that doesn’t bear any relation to the complex and often tortuous way that child protection procedures actually operate.

In the past couple of weeks I’ve had a few run-ins with what happens when that fear gets taken to extremes by the conspiracy theory brigade, some of whom have links to the far-right.

[Warning: this post contains links to far-right websites. If you’re in work be careful what you click on]

Somebody on my Facebook got angrily de-friended by me a couple of days ago after she suggested I look at the online output of a figure called Brian Gerrish. When I responded that his theories sounded like uninformed, paranoid tripe she told me I should, “Try talking to the parents.” Funny that, all these years working in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, and I never contemplated talking to parents. How remiss of me. And there was me thinking it was something I do every working day.

Gerrish gives talks along the lines of this:

It’s an hour long talk. Personally I got about 18 minutes in before my brain started to melt from the sheer drivel about massive conspiracies to steal children by social services. If you don’t want to watch the video (and I wouldn’t blame you), here’s a brief snippet of Gerrish’s theories on the Bridgend suicides.

Helped by detailed research by local South Wales residents, who are extremely concerned at suicide risks to their children, my talk investigated causes of suicides in young people in Bridgend and South Wales. At times, the audience, which included men and women, white and black, of faith and none, was visibly shocked as I exposed over 40 suicides, political and press reaction, the hidden dangers of conflicting Neuro Linguistic Programming NLP sources affecting children and young people, dark and disturbing dance and drama concerning abuse and suicides backed by the National Theatre Wales, dark ‘creative drama’ for youngsters in Community Halls, perverted film making for 14 yr olds covering suicide backed by the Lottery, Creative Visualisation, risks to the mental health of children by early, excessive sex education, risks from Cameron’s ‘Behavioural Change Units’ and more.

When Gerrish went to talk in Swansea about the Bridgend suicides, he got picketed by Unite Against Fascism. I understand that Gerrish denies being on the far-right, though he seems to be getting a lot of support from this councillor, who used to be with BNP and is now with some splinter group called Britain First.

Oh, and David Icke also seems quite keen on Gerrish.

It would be fun to simply laugh this off as the deluded ravings of insignificant fringe groups, but there’s something about this that worries me. I’ve been involved in various child protection cases over the years. Despite what Gerrish thinks, relatively few of them result in the child being removed, and when that happens it’s usually after multiple attempts to work with the parents in order to help them better look after their children. Removing a child into care is difficult, distressing and invariably creates as many problems as it solves. Hence it’s – quite rightly – the last resort.

When a child has to be removed despite all efforts to prevent it, sometimes it’s because of “sad” cases where the parents are simply unable to look after their kids – due to mental illness, learning disability, addiction or just a sheer lack of coping skills. Then there are the “bad” cases – parents who are deeply manipulative, dishonest individuals, sometimes having spent years telling professionals one thing and then doing the opposite, playing different services off against each other in order to hide the abuse and/or neglect that they’re inflicting on their child.

In those latter cases, I wonder what those individuals would make of a movement that was going around telling everyone of a giant conspiracy to steal our children? I think they’d rush to it like a bee to honey.

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One thought on ““Child Stealing” and the Tin Foil Hat Conspiracy Theorists

  1. As the money drains out of social services and the courts, corners may be cut with the rights of children and of parents may be increasingly compromised. These somewhat mad views may then make increasing sense to those who become disaffected by the system but have no other avenue of redress. My experience is also that providing care is the last thing social workers want to do and that managers conscious of financial restraints have tended to reinforce this. The consequences of cuts means inadequate support, poor engagement with families, crisis driven involvement; help that becomes sparsely available and provided too late to make a difference. In these circumstances despite the best of intentions of those providing services, rights are going to be trampled on and the resulting alienation exploited in this way. Its a context where individuals and organisations have to keep working hard at showing real respect in the face of suffering, frustration and hostility that may be daily encountered.

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