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Disabled Canterbury couple's anger at losing battle with Kent County Council to adopt grandchildren

By Alex Claridge

A disabled couple from Canterbury have told of their heartache after losing a battle to adopt their grandchildren.

The wheelchair-bound pair insist that despite their disabilities, they could easily accommodate and look after the boys in their bungalow in a quiet corner of the city.

And they claim the only reason they have lost their fight is the opposition of social services to their case.

A disabled couple have been attempting to adopt their two young grandchildren

Social services are now holding the two boys in a foster home elsewhere in Kent and readying them for adoption by another family.

A hearing took place at the Family Court in Canterbury when Judge Richard Scarratt ruled against the couple.

Publicity surrounding Family Court hearings had been extremely limited, but in January Sir James Munby, the president of the Family Division, ruled that the judgements could be made public.

While the families at the centre of these cases retain anonymity, Sir James ruled councils and social workers trying to take children into care could be named.

The grandmother and grandfather in the Canterbury case support Sir James's changes.

"We want the details of this case to be made public so that people can see the way social services have treated us," the grandfather said.

"They have basically acted like we're thick and incapable. A lot of able-bodied people don't understand what it is to be disabled. They take a very negative view.

"As a result we have lost control of two boys we could have cared for. We have a room for them, we have a vehicle, a garden and we want them with us."

The grandmother added: "Social services treated us very badly. It reflects very badly on the way they deal with vulnerable and disabled people."

Judge Richard Scarratt ruled against the disabled couple

The couple wanted to adopt their daughter's two boys.

They had been caring for the toddlers when social services removed them in April last year.

It was then that they began their legal fight to adopt the children despite the fact that both are confined to wheelchairs.

The grandfather suffered polio and tuberculosis when he was a baby and has been unable to walk since. However, he was a frequent campaigner for disability rights in the 1980s.

"They have basically acted like we're thick and incapable. A lot of able-bodied people don't understand what it is to be disabled. They take a very negative view..." - Canterbury grandfather

His wife has suffered deteriorating health over the years and suffered a stroke a decade ago, which left her with limited use of the right-hand side of her body.

Their daughter supported their application to take custody of the children. She lives in Canterbury and accepts she cannot look after her children. After being bullied at the Canterbury school she attended, she turned to drink and drugs and suffered further at the hands of violent partners.

The grandparents say they are determined to continue their fight and have set up a website to support their custody battle.

In his final judgement on the case, Judge Scarratt said he had been persuaded by the evidence presented by social services, who testified that the couple are unsuitable to look after the boys.

He said he agreed with the authorities that it would not be in the boys' interests to wait for the grandparents to make enough changes to be in a position to properly care for them.

The judge stated: "I am satisfied that the professionals in this case and indeed the court have conducted a balancing exercise in which each option is evaluated and compared. The mother commendably has appreciated that she is unable to care for them.

"The available options are placement with the grandparents or placement outside the family. In my judgment, these children cannot wait for the grandparents to prove that they can parent and nurture them properly with emotional warmth and importantly sustain it.

"Whilst the disadvantage of making a placement order is that the children will be deprived of being brought up within their birth family, in my judgment this is in fact the only realistic option for them which will promote their welfare."

Paul Carter has been criticised for his 'glass ceiling' remarks. Stock picture

Judge Scarratt granted Kent County Council's social services a placement order allowing them to press ahead with the adoption plan.

He added: "I hope that when the dust settles, if it does, that they might be able to appreciate that the court's decisions are made with one objective: to promote their welfare."

Kent County Council spokesman Jo Toscano said: "When children are taken into care for their own safety, Kent social workers work very hard to keep them with family or extended family wherever possible.

"The safety and welfare of the child is paramount in everything that our social workers do and this is always the first consideration when making assessments about what is best for them."

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