Fleeing from social services is the most extreme option that you can take in deciding
how to deal with their intervention. It is a huge upheaval, you will not only be
leaving behind your home, probably a lot of your possessions but also, most importantly
family and friends. You may be removing your child from school, from grandparents,
their friends, the clubs they attend and ultimately the safe environment they call
home. You are giving up a lot, but as many parents who have successfully fled will
confirm, the fear of an even greater loss - that of your children - makes the sacrifice
of material things and even extended family a price worth paying.
Just to be clear, we do not encourage you to flee. Often by engaging with one of
our Lay Advocates and allowing them to assess your situation, a realistic plan can
be developed to fight back without leaving your lives behind. We have had success
at preventing social services going as far as court proceedings by challenging them
every step of the way. Unless you are able to take this on, with all the associated
research required, we suggest that you take advantage of the service offered by our
There are many questions that you will no doubt ask yourself. Ultimately what will
drive your decision is the worry and fear that you have over the safety of your children
and your self belief in your ability to fight the system.
However, if you choose to leave the country our network has the contacts, experience
and knowledge to give you the best chance of succeeding in your action. Like anyone,
we can offer no guarantees, but we can offer support to guide you.
So, when faced with social services intervention should you stay and fight them or
is your best option to flee and remove yourself from their jurisdiction? There is
no easy answer to this. Everything depends upon your individual circumstances but
there are a few basic ground rules that you need to consider before you make your
1. Be completely honest with yourself
Do social services have a valid issue with you and are they actually justified in
If you have been reported for taking drugs, passed out and your children left to
care for themselves whilst you were unconscious then perhaps the social services
have a point. Fleeing is not going to protect you, as the local authority will pursue
you, seeking recovery orders, alerting Interpol, getting the police to call on your
family to find out where you are etc. With a serious and valid claim against you
the authorities will assist in the recovery of your children. In those circumstances
it may be better to ask for help and put the onus back on the social workers to do
their job and assist you.
However, if what they allege is nonsense and you have evidence to prove it then you
have a basis to fight back. Of course, you may still feel that fleeing is the best
option anyway, if for nothing more than to give you space to organise your fight.
2. Assess their agenda as best you can
What do you think the social worker’s agenda may be? Are they threatening in their
approach to you? Are they making noises about Court action in the earliest communications
with you? What are they requesting you should do in their reports? A risk assessment?
Mental health assessment? Access to your medical records? Are you likely to comply
with their requests and attend their meetings or are you more likely to refuse engagement
with them because they have totally got the situation wrong?
If you don't wish to engage they could become heavy handed very quickly. If you are
not prepared to let the social worker into your home and see your children then that
does give them grounds for applying for an Emergency Protection Order or to request
Police assistance to gain entry to your home. Unfortunately it is an ever-changing
balancing exercise in judging the best approach to take. Simply allowing the social
workers to see your children, in one room only of your home, with you present all
the time removes the chance of an EPO on the grounds of not seeing the children,
but still leaves you the opportunity to plan ahead and/or to flee.
3. Any previous involvement?
Your decision will be affected if you have had any dealings with social services
Have you had other children removed? Have you been in care yourself? Are you pregnant
and they are threatening to remove your baby at birth for risk of future emotional
All these are danger signs that it is likely the ultimate aim will be to remove your
child. If you already have had children removed, have your circumstances changed
considerably since that decision? Can you show and prove it?
4. Can you prove them wrong?
Can you, honestly and without a shadow of a doubt prove that their assumptions and
presumptions are wrong?
Are you strong enough emotionally and prepared to engage in what may be a lengthy
battle to prove them wrong?
Have you got the support network to help you do this, family, friends, access to
support and help?
5. Money, money, money!
Perhaps the most important question of all is: can you support yourself if you leave?
Fleeing is expensive. You may not be able to claim benefits in the country you flee
to. In Ireland, for example, you have to be resident there for at least two years.
There are exceptions to that rule and there may be ways to challenge it. You cannot
rely on UK benefits as you can only claim them for up to three months after you leave
the country, but it has been known for social services to report that you have left
and to get your benefits stopped.
The question of supporting yourself is the most crucial if your move is to have any
chance of long term success.
If you flee, what are your options?
Our network operates in 6 countries: Ireland, Denmark, Belgium, France, Spain and
Northern Cyprus. Each choice comes with its own difficulties.
The initial starting point has to be whether you and your children have passports.
Without them or the possibility of obtaining them quickly ie applying in person for
a same-day passport, your options are limited. The UK government class an urgent
need for a passport as within one month, so it may take up to a month to obtain an
appointment for a same-day passport. There are rules as to the types of passport
that can be obtained in this manner, for example it cannot be used for a first time
adult passport application.
Without passports, 5 out of the 6 countries are a non-starter. Hence Ireland is the
destination of choice for many UK fleeing parents. Ireland requires no passport for
travel or entry for British citizens. If you fly, Ryanair require a passport but
sometimes will waive it for a photographic driving licence if arranged in advance.
Aer Lingus will accept photo ID and ferries often don’t ask for either.
There are other options with some parents fleeing to the far-east for example, but
of course for many families the cost of this is prohibitive and is all too often
far too removed from the language, culture and lifestyle of home.
A few words of warning...
Ireland is increasingly following in the UK's footsteps in implementing ever more
draconian child protection measures and of greater concern is their willingness to
work with their UK colleagues in helping 'return' children to the UK. The days of
a 'gentler' social service approach in Ireland are increasingly fading. Recently,
even where the UK authorities are not requesting any 'return' the Child and Family
Agency are of their own volition attempting to invoke procedures to 'return' children,
even those babies born in Ireland. This is not to say that Ireland cannot be an
option but increasingly fleeing parents need the help of our Lay Advocates to instigate
High Court actions for them.
North Cyprus is held up by many as a panacea for fleeing parents. With no extradition
and not a signatory to the Hague Convention on Child Abduction it is seen as a safe
place. Sadly this is not an easy option. Unless you are exceptionally wealthy obtaining
residency is very difficult - you will need to leave the state frequently to renew
your visa and a worrying note from our contacts is that the Police have recently
been visiting British families and interviewing children to ensure they want to be
there. They are happy to deport for any number of reasons, particularly visa violations.
Be very wary before you choose this option. Contact us first and we can give you
the current information. We have recently had a number of families move from North
Cyprus because of the inherent difficulties.
Still want to flee? Check this checklist...
Choosing the fleeing option is not easy. With time and planning it can be relatively
straightforward, but for most parents it is a last minute, panicked bid for escape.
If you are ever faced with having to take that decision, a basic preparation check-list
is essential. In the light of the ever growing and pervasive development of child-protection,
every parent should follow this guide to ensure that if they are required to take
this drastic step it is easy to organise.
1. No matter if social services have never darkened your door, ensure that you and
your children have up to date passports. Even if you do not intend going abroad for
holidays, it is worth the small cost to know that you can leave the country, for
anywhere in the world (bar obtaining necessary visas for some countries) at any time.
There is a fast track system for obtaining passports, but as highlighted above it
is not particularly fast if you are a first time adult applicant.
2. Keep all your passports, key paperwork (birth certificates, driving licences etc.)
together in a large envelope or folder that can be simply picked up and taken with
you. Also ensure that you keep any social services correspondence together and portable.
Your contacts whilst fleeing may need it to help you fight your case.
3. Ensure you have appropriate suitcases, bags, hold-alls and the like to take enough
clothing, toiletries etc for all your family.
4. Obtain a pre-pay credit card so that it can be topped up by family at home for
you, as well as the option of topping up yourself. You may need a credit card for
transport, hotels etc. Being prepaid means that whatever your credit status, it is
obtainable and also largely anonymous, which may be important. Even if you already
have a credit card, a pre-paid one makes it harder to trace your whereabouts.
5. Learn where your nearest departure points are. Find out the timetables for public
transport, even if you own a vehicle, and how to book tickets etc. This may seem
basic and can be done at the last minute, but if you are aware it gives a confidence
to the plans you are making.
6. Speaking of plans, if you have the necessary passports/visas, work out a choice
of countries to flee to and even the connections between and within them. It may
be that you travel first to Ireland, but you do not want to end up in the middle
of the country if you may then move on to France or Spain. Do you need to be near
the key ports/airports etc?
7. Know how you may fund yourself. If you are on UK benefits, be aware of little
snags like having to “sign on.” For example is it feasible to realistically rely
on your benefits or will you have to acquire employment as soon as possible on arrival.
Often social workers will help ensure benefits stop once it is understood you have
actually left the country. Be realistic about your options for funding. Will family/friends
8. Find out who the network contacts are. Who can you turn to for help and support?
Do your homework and find a range of contacts who may help you.
9. Where possible arrange for a trusted family member or friend to have access to
your home and mail to ensure you are up to date with the latest social work reports.
This can be crucial, particularly if the Lay Advisors need access to reports to help
build a case against the social services.
10. Do not advertise to family/friends your intentions. The less anyone knows the
better. Rely on e mail/twitter/facebook to maintain friendships and keep up to date
with your wider world, but wherever possible do not advertise the fact that you will
be leaving town.