Parents, Professionals and Politicians Protecting Children with Illness and / or Disabilities Parents, Professionals and Politicians Protecting Children with Illness and / or Disabilities Parents, Professionals and Politicians Protecting Children with Illness and / or Disabilities
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24 September 2004 - News Update

Families who have suffered the trauma of false accusation are rarely in a position to expose themselves to the media. Either they want privacy or they have been gagged by the family courts. It has therefore been difficult to keep the issue of MSBP or as they now call it “Fictitious and Induced Illness in Children” alive in the press. A handful of committed journalists have worked hard to find new stories and angles and it looks as if we are set for a small flurry of newsprint and radio interest. Of particular concern is the way in which undiagnosed Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome are misinterpreted as MSBP or FII. This is especially potent for me as it was Barnet LEA’s failure to provide a Statutory Assessment to uncover my son’s Asperger’s Syndrome which led to him missing almost three years of educational provision and to the trauma and stigma of false allegation which has undermined our family in very many ways. It also led to my involvement in fighting for other families wrongly accused. Literature of the NSPCC Full Stop campaign has been a key factor in public and professional confusion of the symptoms of Autism and possible child abuse. Fortunately this literature appears to have been withdrawn but its influence lingers in the minds of teachers and others.

It was heartening to see MSBP/FII dealt with so well in a recent episode of the BBC drama “Silent Witness” (Death by Water – the episode after Amanda Burton and before Emelia Fox) where the TV audience knew the real reason for a baby’s death whilst being treated to a caricature of a Meadow / Southall lecture on MSBP / FII by the paediatric pathologist who had accused the father of murdering the baby. We need more of such well crafted TV drama.

I am profoundly disappointed that Alan Milburn has returned to high office. In 2001 when he was at the Department of Health, Alan Milburn and his colleague Beverly Hughes (since discredited over immigration issues), presided over the issue of the guidelines on “Fictitious and Induced Illness in Children”. These guidelines are essentially the “Gospel according to Saint Roy Meadow and Saint David Southall” presented as Government policy. Lord Hunt of Kings Heath promised in the Lords on 17 October 2001 that evidence presented by Peers in the debate on false accusations of child abuse would be considered before the guidelines were issued, we can only assume that he was over-ruled by Mr Milburn as the guidelines were not tempered with reason of any kind (see Charles Pragnell’s paper below).Without the guidelines Trupti Patel would have not been brought to trial – it had seemed fitting that Mr Milburn’s departure from the Government had coincided with her acquittal. I fear that his return will make it even harder to get the guidelines repealed as he will presumably want to support and promote something for which he was responsible. It could make things much worse for families with vulnerable children and I fear we saw the start of this when the normally reasonable Steven Twigg came over as so hardline in a recent radio interview about “unauthorised absence” from school. Children with undiagnosed special educational needs and complex medical or social difficulties frequently find their absences recorded as “unauthorised”. One family was recently accused of emotional abuse for failing to get a teenager, in treatment for school phobia, to attend school regularly – surely it would be more abusive to forcibly deliver such a young person to a place they found so traumatic?

Jan Loxley Blount London 24 09 04

Please read Charles Pragnell’s recent paper on MSBP / FII. Click here to view the paper.

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