No smoke without fire?  ‘Safeguarding concerns’

No smoke without fire? ‘Safeguarding concerns’

I’d have been the same.  I would’ve thought “I bet there is more to this story, a whole ‘other side.’ There will be something legitimate that triggered the Social Care referral, I bet.”

That is until I read the contents of Peter’s school and local authority (LA) files.  To say it was interesting is an understatement; I literally shook in shock for three days.  What had gone on behind the scenes, completely unknown to me, was like a never ending horror story.  I remember crying and screaming hysterically over and over down the phone to one someone “They will never, ever, stop and there is nothing I can do. They won’t stop. They just won’t stop.”  That is how it felt, and that is what, in fact, had happened over the preceding three plus years behind the scenes….  What I had read was a relentless stream of harmful rubbish – documented as fact.  Years of senior teaching staff fairly frantically looking for an explanation as to why Peter was ‘fine’ and the medical teams were wrong.  I was caught in the crossfire by describing the difficulties that he had and asking for help.  

It had gone unchallenged despite the fact that none of it made any sense.  Some professionals acted as protagonists, actively encouraging it like it was an exciting bit of gossip.  These were fed more information by the Head Teacher leading the ‘campaign’.  Some walked away.  Some had tried in vain to put forward another view only to find that it fell on deaf ears.  The latter two groups were largely ignored by the protagonists and their advice and recommendations for Peter were subsequently ignored.  Those professionals were gossiped about too and their recommendations (literally in one case) were thrown back at them.

When posting ‘the book’ I made the decision to remove the more direct references to this whole underhand and unsafe practice, as I felt that the readers would struggle, as I would have done, not to think “There must be more to this.”

Whilst reading the book one person did write a very genuine question on a forum, about why?  What?  I don’t get it…?  Is something missing?

It was at that time that another member of the forum introduced the idea of confirmation bias which in combination with unconscious incompetence explains a good deal of it.  The rest may in part be explained by a deal of rigidity on the part of certain staff, the need to be right at all costs and the avoidance of actually understanding and meeting Peter’s needs.

So just this week I have received an email from someone reading the blogs to say that they talk to groups about the experiences’ of parents.  All tends to go swimmingly until the mention of the misuse of safeguarding allegations against parents in SEN… “It is almost as if they are conditioned to disbelieve the rest of my presentation – that if ‘safeguarding are involved,’ the parents must be wrong.”

I wonder if, in part, it is their subconscious protecting them “It couldn’t happen to me because it only happens to people who aren’t like me…. only to people who really do abuse and neglect children.

Let me tell you, it can happen to you.

A seed of doubt is raised, a cloud of suspicion covers you and just won’t shift it no matter how ridiculous, ill-founded or malicious the ‘suspicion’ is.  So big is this problem that I continue to be concerned about publishing this post yrs later.  Will the readers and followers of this blog suddenly see everything differently?  Will it cast a shadow of doubt over everything else I have written?  Will people fall away thinking “There must be more to this?”  I hope not, but I have decided to continue with this story.  I feel this is a practice in SEN that must be better explored, questioned, shared and exposed.

In my case concerns were raised repeatedly and secretly for years.  Initially, because they couldn’t ‘see’ the diagnosis.  They couldn’t see what they weren’t trained to notice and they were too arrogant to think that something may exist that they couldn’t see.  They followed no logical thought processes, it seems.  There was an apparent inability to understand that other professionals working with children may know something that they didn’t.  

Then confirmation bias set in, alongside my old favourite – unconscious incompetence.  It is easy to see from the notes that some non-teaching staff were really quite excited by supporting the more senior staff to uncover some terrible secret.  One, in particular, did absolutely everything in her power to support and uncover ‘the secret’.  Others were clearly happy to be complicit; evidenced by the cheery gossipy emails “How was the home visit”  and the reply, “Interesting, call me”.  I have no idea what was so ‘interesting’ about the EP visit, other than the meltdown caused by Peter expecting sausages in bread when I was planning sausage and mash.

So here is the sting….. In our case, a Social Care referral had been made with my knowledge and consent soon after Peter was diagnosed.  It was to see if we could access additional support.  No support could be offered and no concerns were raised.  Yes really.  We had already been assessed.  There are records to show that the protagonists knew this, yet they continued on relentlessly for more than a further two and a half years.  This information would also have been easy to access by the ‘senior adviser to safeguarding in schools’ at the LA. Yet records show she was more excited to be joining in the drama than she was to check out the facts and put a stop to the treatment we were subjected to.

I must raise the issue at this point that much of the concern was raised because of a general disbelief about Peter’s diagnosis.  However, this disbelief was never formally pursued and, even if staff had wanted to, there seems to be no precedent or protocol for this.  Had it been, there were plenty of opportunities for school staff to properly understood the nature of his difficulties (it is well documented that his CAMHS team and OT were willing to do whatever was necessary to support this).  However, I don’t believe that the school staff wanted this to be resolved.  They didn’t want to understand.  They wanted to be right.

Maybe they also wanted to avoid having to make some minor provision for Peter, and of course all of the time they were recording and telling each other that ‘we don’t see it’ then they were apparently under no obligation to meet those needs.

It is of note that these ‘concerns’ are not actually described anywhere over the years, although there were hints at ‘mother is anxious’ and also at Fabricating and Inducing Illness (FII).  To me it seems impossible that I could be both.  Either I am an incapable wreck, or I incredibly able and pathologically skilled at manipulation (in order to manipulate Peter and professionals to an extreme, explained in greater detail later).

We have a fabulous guest blogger who will write all of the official ‘stuff’ about FII in the next few days, however, there are four points that I would like to raise about this here.

Firstly, six weeks after Peter was admitted to the Tier 4 unit 150 miles from home there is a Social Care file note that states “school think Peter is fine and that Mum is Fabricating,” so let’s just break this down.  This file note was made:

    • four and a half years after the School Nurse referred Peter to CAMHS for anxiety, and the specialist social worker there had assessed him and deemed it necessary for him to see a Clinical Psychologist.  The CP had assessed him at home, school and in clinic over the next few months and had supported Peter since.  This was Tier 2 CAMHS;
    • three years after his diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome.  The key assessment for this was carried out by a second, completely independent Clinical Psychologist renowned for having a deep interest in ASD.  He knew nothing of Peter before the assessment and so in a way provided an internal second opinion;
    • almost 3 years after Peter was first seen by a Child Psychiatrist for anxiety.  Staff changes had meant that over the years he had been seen by 3 psychiatrists and a community paediatrician.  None questioned his diagnosis.  He had been prescribed medication for his anxiety.  This was Tier 3 CAMHS;
    • 2 years after he had been seen and assessed by an experienced OT with post-graduate qualifications in sensory processing.  She also saw no reason to question the diagnosis.
    • 2 years after he was seen by a GP in a distressed state in Year 3 who also supported the diagnosis;
    • 4 months after his breakdown and assessment by 2, multidisciplinary Tier 4 CAMHS teams.  They were independent of each other and the local Tier 3 CAMHS and geographically about 180 miles apart;
  • 6 weeks after he had begun living away from me in a Tier 4 ward and had also been assessed there by the specialist teachers.  

Yet the only contribution school could offer to the assessment was “We think Peter is fine and mum is fabricating.”

You have to ask – “Tell me again who it is that is causing this child harm?”  One of the tier 4 assessments concluded that his mental health difficulties could be attributed to “a magnitude of difficulties including his significant learning challenges, his sensory issues and the difficulties relating to his peers and most likely bullying” and “He also appears to have trauma symptoms from his previous educational experiences.”

The degree of obsession demonstrated by school and LA professionals in Peter’s case is extreme, but I don’t believe that it is unusual for groups of people like this to become fixated and blinkered.  It feels to me as though neither their training nor the culture they work in supports the development of sound judgement through self-awareness and reflective practice.

Secondly, I would like to raise the issue of a particular group of children for whom there suddenly seems to be ‘safeguarding concerns’.  

I do wonder what the proportion of safeguarding referrals relating to families previously unknown to social care are made when the child is diagnosed with, or suspected to have, SEND and one of the following scenarios occurs:

    • there is a dispute of provision, or;
    • a complaint is made to school about the support to their child, or;
  • the parent makes a request for a copy of their child’s records.  

I think this needs investigating, I really do.  With regard to the last point, the following note was made on social media on a thread relating a school that was being obstructive about providing a copy of a child’s records to the parents:

“3 days after we asked for files they reported us to SS.  SS threw it out as ridiculous but every time we tried to get info they tried again to refer to SS.  We got this information from our last Subject Access Request.  I’m telling you this because it’s something schools do apparently in an effort to get you to leave.  Our school alone did this to four other families and succeeded” and they followed with:

We had to take our child out of school … We kept him on the roll while they did everything to get us to de-register including prosecution orders while the ECHP was going through.  Our outreach team even called and said ‘are you keeping him in school?  Most people withdraw their kids after school has called SS’.  That’s when the penny dropped and I put a post on FB and found it was already commonly known as something schools do to try and get you to leave.  I was approached by a mother some months after we left and she told us they left after they were reported to SS ……. Turns out 4 families left the school and all had SEN kids.  (used with permission of the author).

Have you noticed that when there is a disagreement over diagnosis that the next step is to BLAME THE PARENT?  Not question the diagnosing team, to have a professional to professional discussion, but to BLAME THE PARENT.  It is completely illogical.  Yet it does suit those with the power and authority.  This could be prevented of course if there was national guidance published on how to resolve a disagreement.  

No-one challenged any of the staff that pursued the allegations against us to my knowledge.  Yet as graduates with a ‘professional standing’ surely they should have to account for their assumptions?   Not initially, I understand that it is right that hunches should be followed to protect children from harm.  However, after one assessment has ruled out concerns and when it goes on for more than 3 years?  There has to come to a point where those ‘raising suspicions’ should be expected to have something substantial to say?  This leads me to point three, accountability.  


Thirdly I would like to ask about accountability.  At what point should some logical questions be asked?

Why was the safeguarding policy not followed?  Good practice would dictate that the first thing that any professional should do is inform the parents unless it is believed that this would give rise to the imminent threat of serious harm.  There should have been a discussion with me each time a concern was raised.  Yet it went on for more than three years and I had no clue.  Everyone involved knew that I had not been informed of any of the concerns they were discussing.  It seems that the only time anyone might be concerned about the failure to follow safeguarding policy is when the child has come to harm at the hands of the parents.  It’s not important, it seems, if failures to follow procedure leads to harm because of the behaviour of the professionals.  

Fourthly there is the issue of teaching of safeguarding

Someone recently wrote “I have just been on yet another safeguarding course for a course I’m on and it’s definitely drilled in at even the most basic level that there’s ‘no smoke without fire ‘ (LADOs own words) and that, if professionals are involved, they should be believed over parents/carers as they have ‘nothing to gain by lying’.”

How unbelievably naive!  I have listed here just some of the reasons staff may have for ‘lying’ and there are more.  The most obvious being the perverse incentives that the new funding from SEND (outlined more here).   

I have no doubt that this practice isn’t uncommon.  It seems to be an open secret.  Other professionals know and I wonder what they think about it?  If they think about it?  If it’s all too difficult to think about?  

Is there anything that professionals outside of teaching can do in fact?  I wonder if they understand how crippling it feels?  Are they worried complaints will be made about them?  That they won’t be able to help children in the future if they make ripples in the more complex cases now?

To anyone who is still wondering about ‘smoke and fire’, just to let you know that another social care assessment was carried out whilst Peter was in hospital – to inform the EHCP.  No concerns were raised.   The Tier 4 CAMHS consultant was very clear also.  There. Are. No. Concerns.  

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30 thoughts on “No smoke without fire? ‘Safeguarding concerns’

  1. I make it a point to never comment on blogs but this has to be commented on – this is a growing issue. Professionsl frequently use this copout to avoid accountability / avoid having to fund complex needs epecially when it’s Asperger’s syndrome. Parents are often accused of being overanxious or overmedicalising, and then that isn’t too big of a leap to FII. Especially when the parent themselves has ASD, diagnosed or undiagnosed. Once the spectre is raised, it just won’t. go. away. Just, horrific that the professionals abuse the system with little or no consequences, and it may spiral as far as us parents losing our children over a whisper or a bit of unfounded gossip.

    There are a few professionals doing work around highlighting this growing problem – I think Lana Grant is one of them. Terrifying business. Utterly terrifying. Keep writing. :high five:

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I’m commenting two years on because you are spot on, this has happened to us twice. You’ve hit the nail on the head time and again, the “excitement” that gets generated by a group of professionals who think they’ve discovered something, the “no smoke without fire’ attitude (they do have a check list thanks to Danya Glaser and SS work by flowcharts..) and the sheer arrogance that they cannot question other professionals – so it must be mum. I’ve blogged about our experience – largely in the NHS – and have been shocked by the frequency this happens. We were even told it’s a useful “tool” to discover the trutth?! Ie an FII referral is an appropriate way to investigate when you as the accused can be kept totally in the dark and get no say whatsoever, whilst “facts” condemn you which could easily be disproved if the right people were asked. It’s absolutely shocking,

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I have been through the same with school. Everytime I made a complaint or tried to get help for my daughters I was reported to social services and I only found out when I did an SAR.
    School have done everything not to help my daughters. I just can’t understand how they are getting away with it. The school have even given out the wrong attendance for my daughters and wrong information to professionals to hinder help. Also sent a copy of my daughters school report to professionals but changed information and grades to make out she was doing better. I have complained to everyone possible with evidence and nobody is interested. It’s so sad.


    1. Thank you so much for commenting and describing these issues too. I feel that we need to remove the idea that it is ‘rare’. Scary about the attendance fraud – have you seen unable to attend – what next? that is what one school did to us too. 😦


  3. We had a similar problem. My son had never really liked school and after some bullying he developed a phobia in Year 9. I would drag him to school, just for him to run away. He wanted to sleep all day under a blanket and wouldn’t eat, because it was stressing him out. As the school said we were lying, even though I went every morning (often in tears) asking for help, they just kept pushing County on me and how we were going to get into so much trouble. My son started running away in the night and wrote a suicide poem at one point. They said he couldn’t have a phobia of school, because they said they saw him on a weekend and he looked fine!?! In the end, we took him out to home school. He started with CAMHS after I pushed everyone for a referral and was told he has a high level of anxiety and a phobia of school and wondered why the school hadn’t helped. It has been awful, but were finally getting our son back. All the best x


  4. It happens. Definitely. the child was awaiting diagnosis, now received, referral was made without checking with parents who have regular contact with school and are both educators and (were) supportive of school. Protocol wasn’t followed parents were not consulted with even though there was no imminent harm admitted by HT. supposed injury exaggerated on referral that was actually not even there on examination.. without doubt this was malicious and designed to try and make parents withdraw child from the school. sS closed case no concerns and were openly shocked at how little there was to the referral in the first place and no history with family at all.


  5. School put my son and my family through hell! I had to choose to home educate my son just to give us time and space to recover from the stress that malicious allegations put the whole family under.
    In my case my son was diagnosed with DCD and had difficulties related to his hypermobility and asthma but the school just left him struggling and denied previous concerns about his behaviour and learning difficulties.
    I made a complaint as I had notes from meetings where the class teacher reported lots of concerns that was later denied. I was then reported by the school for exagerating my sons problems. The school nurse then got involved in the info sharing in the form of gossip contacting the paediatrician with concerns about my mental health, so I made a complaint (due to a clear breach of my confidentially as this info was then shared with the school, LA and camhs in writing) was at the end of the day and the medical records showed that as soon as the school nurse was informed of my complaint an investigation into ‘potential fii’ began. (Very obviously in retaliation).
    The social services came out, no concerns, but at that point, support for my son appeared to stop and appointments seemed to be more focussed on assessing me! So my son was getting no support at all and it was clear from comments in assessments that people were trying to portray me as an over anxious mother. ‘Mother was anxious’ was also written in my notes even though anxiety is not something I have ever suffered from! (I’m actually very chilled out and quite passive).
    But the stress of the unfair practice and people trying to portray me as something that couldn’t have been further from the truth and having read that children can be wrongly taken into care following such false allegations naturally made me feel anxious!!
    A year later we are home edding but the trauma and disbelief at what professionals put us through and the knowledge of existence of such awful malpractice has had an effect on my whole life. I nolonger trust professionals and the experience still hurts deeply! I am and have always been a very responsible mum who would never allow my child to come to any harm and the allegation malicious or not is potental child abuse. It is so hurtful to know that these lies are on my sons medical records!!!


  6. This is commonplace shockingly and law firms are now dealing with cases of it.

    “In recent times, a new tactic has been used by Local Authorities when dealing with perceived to be ‘problem parents’; the involvement of Social Services. In practice, this is becoming more commonplace.”

    “…it is becoming more apparent that Social Care Departments across the country are quick to conclude that it is simply ‘bad parenting’ as opposed to considering the features of the diagnosis.”

    “If however the parents are intent on seeking funding for further support or a specialist ASD placement (via the SEN Tribunal) then this procedure is often used as a means of halting any challenge to the Authority regarding educational issues; a quite shameful tactic. Unfortunately, situations like this are becoming the norm.”

    “As opposed to working collaboratively with the family, many Local Authorities will go on the offensive. Any perceived challenge from parents will be a catalyst for Social Services involvement and a host of issues for them to face, most notably child protection procedures…”

    As for MSBP/FII plenty of information here about that being misused: “False accusations of fabricated and induced illness against parents” Your guest blogger might refer to some of this.

    It has been done against my family. It’s corruption to the core. As for professionals not lying, utter rubbish. Just the fact alone that they are human (despite appearing less than oftentimes…) means they will lie. It seems the tiny minds of some of these people, perhaps their jobs are stressful (although that’s no excuse) means they relish the idea of bad-mouthing parents. Maybe they have a sense of importance and think parents should know their places. Think that couldn’t happen? Think again: “Professionals/Authority and the Parent Blame Culture”

    Undertaking an SAR, many parents would be shocked. And if you haven’t already seen the proposed udpated guidance for child abuse, you will be horrified. Not only because of the fact that many autistic traits are listed as signs of abuse but the general tone of the whole document. They even list not vaccinating as a sign of neglect. Vaccination is optional.

    I urge all you mums to respond through a stakeholder such as Parents Protecting Children, FASO or others on the NICE list. Stakeholder list and further information on consultation here@


  7. We removed our child from school a number of years ago. They didn’t believe the diagnoses… trotted out the usual trite phrases “the child we see in school isn’t the one you describe”, “… needs to be allowed to fail so we can see the difficulties…” and even telling us “you do too good a job” whilst at the same time referring us to SS. Having removed from school (even though SSEN in place) we did a SAR … and the documents we received were incomplete at first; then revealing a horrific tale of ‘paid opinion giving’ which even included the HT using the phrase “educational munchhausen’s by proxy” in the referrals. There was no interest from the school/s or council in supporting our child despite a number of diagnoses (NOT paid for by us… delivered by independent NHS medics in non-local hospitals). This is a widespread practice. It is NOT about the child/YP, as you say, but about *certain people* deciding something and then doing ALL IN THEIR POWER to ensure they are *proved right*. Disgusting – not only is it abuse (of child and family) but it’s also time and money wasting and exceedingly harmful. There are some very dangerous “educational professionals” about… and all too often they rise to the top in their chosen ‘profession’. Woe betide anyone who tries to take them on… they will all be trodden on, threatened, subjected to gaslighting… or worse. Knowing you’re not alone does NOT help… but it IS a reality for far too many SEND families.


  8. Have a look at this petition with updates detailing a classic example of this scenario of a malicious referral from within the LA (Carrie Grant and Anna Kennedy, autism parent celebrities have signed the petition):

    1) “Please keep the momentum going for this innocent family”

    2) “Facts About LA Parties Making SS Referral – All in LAs Own Education Department”

    3) “Should your autistic child face this if they ever become a parent?”

    4) “Autistic Masking and Professionals Disbelieving Parents”

    5) “Local Professional Failings Before SS Referral”

    6) “Professionals Working in Partnership with Parents: What’s Going Wrong?”

    7) “Social Services’ “Hypothesis”, Confirmation Bias and Sham Investigations”

    8 ) “Misspending Tax Payers’ Money on Wrongful Investigations”

    9) “So Why is This S47 Illegal Exactly?”

    10) “Brighton & Hove Social Services Performance Report and Claims”

    11) “Does This Sound Like an ‘Emotionally Harming’ Mother?”

    12) “False Record Keeping (Perjury) by UK Social Services: Where’s the Honesty?”

    13) “The Irony: Brighton & Hove LA SW’s Ignorance of the Law on Section 47’s”

    14) “How Social Services Emotionally Harm Children”

    15) “How Social Services & Other Professionals Discriminate”

    16) “So What is the Point of Social Services, Especially for Autism Families?”

    17) “Law Firm Tells it Like It Is Over Malicious Social Services Referrals – The Game is Up”

    18) “Children Act 1989 on Section 47 Investigations – It’s the Law!”

    19) “A ‘Child Protection Conference’ Arising from an Unlawful Process”

    20) “More on Discrimination Against Autistic Mothers (Guardian Article)”

    21) “Gaslighting by Social Services”

    22) “LA Barriers to SEN Families: Setting Us Up to Fail”

    23) “Another Autistic Mother Discriminated Against by Malicious Professionals”

    24) “Respect with regards to human rights should be at the heart of every social worker’s practice”

    25) “A Pattern of Behaviour by Brighton & Hove City Council”

    26) “More Patterns of Very Bad Behaviour by Brighton & Hove Council”


  9. We had the same problem. Referred to SS because we had the audacity to complain about our child’s lack of support in school (even though a statement was already in place). SS stated very clearly that there were no concerns whatsoever and that the referral was malicious. SAR then showed that the school continued quietly to contact medical professionals without our knowledge and encouraging them to refer to SS. We had to remove our child from the school. Also interesting to note that in many instances, it’s the mother that these things are levelled at. The Refrigerator Mother idea has never really gone away.


  10. Yes this happened to us sort of. The SS tried to initiate child protection conference and it was thrown out. Thankfully the independent chair saw through the absolutely fictitious piece of rubbish report written by the social worker who didn’t even have the guts to turn up for the conference. She also gave it to us at the final hour the day before the conference. I have zero trust and faith in the system after this. If anyone has any contact with the SS make sure you write everything down, record meetings if you can, document everything. Get legal help – crowdfund if you have to.


  11. I was also going to add that I think this started with a teacher in the ASD providion at my son’s previous school from a non incident. Since then she seemed to be seeing things that weren’t there such as my son having a red eye. He had a red eye because he was constantly rubbing it from a pollen allergy. She also rang his SW and said he had a bruise under his eye. He had no bruise and the SW actually said that too. It was crazy. I fortunately got a doctor’s appointment that day and she confirmed that it was a pollen allergy. If my son was “abused” he would have had a medical history of brusing and injuries which he never had. It was silly. We absolutely bend over backwards to accommodate our son even thought he is hitting us all and he is even putting his hands in his brother’s pants etc. now. I had mooted to that teacher about the possibility of my son going to a residential school for autistic kids and I think a lot of this stuff coincided with that. It’s very sinister. And even now I have lawyers trying to get the LA to action my section 20 request. We just don’t feel safe with him at home anymore. I’ve even gone over the LA’s heads and got Edward Timpson’s department to write them a letter about the safeguarding concerns for our youngest from his brother. It is terrible that you have to be like this to your own son. It should all be managed properly and it is evil and sick that this is going on.


  12. The last time someone said to me, “There’s no smoke without fire,” I replied, “I used to believe that until I watched a fire alarm being tested with an aerosol ‘smoke’.”


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