Monthly Archives: January 2014

Adopted Children Missing Out on Mental Health Treatments

Common disorders, such as ADHD or conduct disorder, are being ‘grossly under-identified’ amongst adopted and fostered children, according to a new study by King’s College London. Instead, clinicians are over-identifying more complex ‘attachment disorders’, and as a result children are missing out on appropriate treatments.

The findings are published in the journal Child and Adolescent Mental Health.

It was reported last week that adopted children are being misdiagnosed with a more complex diagnosis than what they actually have.  Attachment problems were mentioned in 31% of the referrals. Upon clinical assessment, only one child was identified as having potential attachment symptoms but this was for a child in the 69% not initially identified with attachment problems.

Only 4% of referrals identified conduct disorder but rates of conduct disorder were approximately 10 times higher in the national data. In the clinical assessment, common disorders were diagnosed much more frequently than attachment disorders, with conduct disorders diagnosed 13 times more frequently than attachment disorders.

Dr Matt Woolgar, lead author of the paper from the National Academy of Parenting Research at King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, and consultant clinical psychologist at the National Adoption and Fostering Service at SLaM, says:

“There is real confusion around the term ‘attachment disorder’. Clinicians appear to be using this diagnosis to try and capture the complex mental health problems that adopted or fostered children often have. It seems that clinicians may be making the diagnosis based more on the assumptions due to the child’s history, rather than because of specific symptoms. In doing so, the danger is that they are blinded to some of the more straightforward diagnoses, like ADHD, or conduct disorders, for which there are good, evidence-based treatments. As a result, children are missing out on the treatments they need.”

Samantha Sanders, a child care and adoption solicitor at Ridley & Hall commented:

“Whilst it is great to hear that adopted children are getting the relevant medical help when a problem is identified, it is concerning to read that a lot of the children are being misdiagnosed with more complex issues than what they are actually suffering from.  Is this because the doctor is aware that the child is adopted and therefore thinks that the child is suffering from an attachment disorder given their background instead of it being a more common case of ADHD?

“It also brings into question whether the clinicians carrying out the assessment fully understand the term ‘attachment disorder’ in the first place.

“More emphasis needs to be put on the issues that adopted parents may face as their adopted child gets older. The professionals who deal with the children need to be fully aware of them to enable the parents to get the most appropriate support.”

Adoptive parents who consider that they need an assessment to enable them to better care for their often damaged children can contact the child care and adoption team at Ridley & Hall on 01484 538421.

Further articles can be found at

Medical Express

The full report can be found in the Journal “Child and Adolescent Mental Health”

Tour de France; Improved Cycling Safety for Yorkshire?

The organisers of the 2014 Tour de France Grand have predicted that it will boost the soaring popularity of cycling in Britain and put Yorkshire on the global map, as they begin their final six months of preparations for one of the world’s biggest sporting events.

Samantha Hirst, a personal injury lawyer at Ridley & Hall solicitors believes that there is a lot of optimism and excitement surrounding the upcoming Tour de France event:

“I will personally feel a sense of local pride when the riders cycle through towns such as Leeds, York and Harrogate. But I’m concerned that this rise in cycling will be unsustainable, unless parliament is prepared to address road safety concerns.”

Some of the accident statistics are concerning; the Department for Transport’s 2012 road casualty statistics show:

  • a 10% increase in cyclist fatalities from 107 in 2011 to 118 in 2012 and a 4% rise in serious injuries from 3,085 to 3,222.  This is against a trend of decreasing casualties in road accidents for all other modes of transport.
  • the number of pedal cyclists killed or seriously injured (KSIs) per billion miles cycled has risen by 18% from the 2005 to 2009 average to 1,074 casualties per billion vehicle miles – this is 3% higher than in 2011.

Samantha goes on to say, “Action needs to be taken by the government to prevent cycling accidents – I deal with too many cases often involving serious injuries, which would have been prevented.”

Chris Boardman, a former Tour de France yellow jersey holder and adviser to British Cycling said, “The government’s apathy and poor understanding about the causes of cycling accidents are no better now than over 16 years ago.”  He considers that this causes a direct threat to the governing body’s plan to attract more people into cycling.

Samantha Hirst says, “It has been fantastic to see two British riders winning the Tour de France over the last two years. According to Sport England (a public body that distributes funding for sport) this success has seen an overall increase in cycling participation by 137,000 to 2 million between April and October last year. Encouraging people to participate in sport and be more active is a positive change, but are Britain’s roads equipped to deal with such a high increase in cyclists, especially after the Tour de France event?”

Last year a total of 14 cyclists were killed in London. 6 of these cyclists were killed between the 5th and the 18th November 2013. The UK Transport Select Committee is currently investigating cycling safety and the causes of these deaths.

Opposition Labour Party member Louise Ellman, who leads the Select Committee, said, “Progress is being made, and the findings of the current probe will be published in the first half of this year.”

However, Chris Boardman said in a British Cycling statement that lawmakers should be ‘embarrassed’ over their lack of basic knowledge about the issue. Boardman’s experience of cycling around the world has encouraged him to come forward with some ideas of how Britain could improve its road safety.  He suggests that the UK needs better cycling paths, especially in urban areas with more junctions.

He goes on to say:

“The government has a difficult choice. There is a finite amount of space so to make better cycle lanes you are going to alienate others. It’s a scary change that could lose votes.”

He suggests we should look across the pond, specifically at New York, where he says cycling accidents have stayed at the same level since 2007 even when popularity rose by 250%. Boardman believes there is a deeper, political motive and has said “In New York, there was a political will for change. David Cameron says he wants to make Britain a cycling nation, but what good is that if you have no participation target, no strategy and no funding commitment?”

One Yorkshire city that has seen a huge increase in cyclists is Hull. According to the Yorkshire Post, about 8.5 per cent of the working population cycle to work, compared with about 2.5 per cent per cent outside London.

Samantha concludes:

“Local authorities will have to be prepared for this shift. A lot of work needs to be done and the government will have to look at making practical changes to improve our roads to ensure road safety. I think the biggest challenge is changing people’s attitudes to make cyclists and motorists more tolerant of each other. I enjoy my work…but I would be very happy to see fewer injured cyclists.”

Samantha is a Paralegal in Ridley & Hall’s specialist Litigation team with years of experience in personal injury cases.

For further information please contact Samantha Hirst of Ridley & Hall, Queens House, 35 Market Street, Huddersfield, HD1 2HL on 01484 538421.

69 Year Old Grandma Wins High Court Battle for Support

A Bradford pensioner has won a High Court battle against Bradford Council. She will now get financial support to care for her 11 year old granddaughter. Bradford fought the case all the way. HHJ Heaton sitting as a High Court Judge ruled against the council.


The grandmother who cannot be named for legal reasons, a 69 year old pensioner, has been caring for her granddaughter since October 2004, when the child was just aged two.

Bradford Social Services had ongoing involvement with the family and had serious concerns about the care that the parents were providing. They made it clear whilst on a visit at the parents’ home that if the grandmother did not take the child, she would be placed into foster care with strangers. The child was placed on the Child Protection Register under the categories of emotional abuse and neglect.

Following the grandmother taking on the care of her granddaughter, Bradford M.D.C. walked away. They did not provide her with any financial support. She was left struggling financially.

Commenting, the grandmother said:

“Like many grandparents in this position I didn’t know my rights. When Social Services failed to pay me any money, I assumed that they were acting within the law. I didn’t find out about the fact that I should be receiving fostering allowance for years.

When I found out the true position I took legal advice. If I hadn’t been told about Ridley & Hall I’d still have been struggling. People like me need specialist advice.”

Tracey Ling of specialist solicitors Ridley & Hall in Huddersfield was instructed to act on behalf of a grandmother.

Ms Ling commented:

“Letters were sent to Bradford to try to settle the matter and secure payments of fostering allowance to the grandmother. Bradford refused to pay an allowance, stating that the child was not a “Looked After” Child. They claimed that they had no duty to financially support the grandparent carer. They said this was a private arrangement between the parents and the grandmother.”

She went on:

“We were confident that placing the child with her grandma stopped her being taken into foster care. Bradford had saved themselves thousands of pounds and left my client and the child to struggle.

“It should have been sorted out amicably but Bradford used Council Tax payers money to fight the case all the way.

“The matter was taken to the High Court. The decision of the judge was that this was a ‘Looked After’ child and Bradford’s argument justifying its refusal to pay was rejected.

“Bradford was ordered to pay a fostering allowance to the grandmother in respect of the child. She’ll now get £177.20 per week.

“Bradford was further ordered to pay a lump sum amount of almost £2,000 and the legal costs of the grandmother.”

The grandmother commented, “I’m delighted with the outcome. It’s like a late Christmas and an early Birthday present – I’m 70 in April!

“This should never have happened. I never thought that I’d be looking after a 11 year old at my age. I shouldn’t have had to take legal advice. It’s wrong that the council have forced me to go to court to get the support they were legally bound to pay. They’ve saved themselves thousands in fostering payments and left us to it.

“Now I’m getting a weekly payment, I’ll no longer find it such a struggle to afford to buy essential items for my granddaughter. I can now pay for her school uniform and send her on school trips.  She’s missed out on so much.

“We’ve had to penny pinch. Hopefully this will enable my granddaughter to participate more in activities. It will help her to socialise and to build her confidence. She needs this boost!”

For more information on kinship care, please contact Tracey Ling on 01484 538421 or by e-mail.

How Much are Adopters told?

The tragic and challenging story of a couple’s experience of adoption was the subject of a report on Radio 5 Investigates with Adrian Goldberg on19th January.

Nigel Priestley, Senior Partner with Ridley & Hall and the Adoption Legal Centre told the programme that sadly the couple’s experience was not unique. They had been told that the child placed with them had no specific problems and simply needed to be brought up in a loving stable family home.

They quickly found that this was not the case. The programme highlighted the problem that in some cases social workers were minimising the child’s problems in order to make finding a placement easier.

In a recent case, a judge had tried to impose conditions on a local authority after she concluded that the social worker could not be trusted to tell prospective adopters the truth about how the child’s presenting.

Nigel Priestley was joined on the programme by Hugh Thornberry of Adoption UK. Another prospective adopter told her story. She had been assured that a child to be placed with her had been genetically tested and told she had nothing to fear, despite serious genetic problems within the family. She then found that no testing had been done and the child may have a serious life threatening condition. She pulled out of the proposed adoption.

Commenting, Mr Priestley said, “There is enormous pressure on local authorities from this government to get as many children placed with adoptive parents as possible. The new phenomenon of the Adoption Party for hard to place children adds to the risk that social workers may be tempted to minimise the problems that the children present.”

He added “The situation is made worse by the serious lack of skilled post-adoption support. Failure to give all the facts risks an adoption breaking down. This causes enormous damage to the child and the carers and has to be avoided at all costs.

Nigel Priestley is a Senior Partner of Ridley & Hall. He is a member of the Children’s Panel and regularly represents children and parents in care proceedings. For more information on the legal issues surrounding adoption, please contact us on 01484 538421 or visit the Adoption Legal Centre.


5 Live Investigations with Adrian Goldberg can be listened to by logging onto his web page on BBC 5 Live website. It is in the last 20 minutes of the programme.

Part of the prospective adopters story is set out below

How did what you had been told about him in the reports you’d seen compare to the reality of having him live with you?

In the early days of placement our child was very compliant, as many can be, although clearly scared of the world which was definitely not reflected in any reports we had been able to view. He played very repetitively and he had no speech. He was only able to make sounds, not vocalisations or speech. We can only assume that the sound he made in his previous setting, had been interpreted as words. A speech and language therapist would have definitely not said that our child had speech or vocalisation. The mental health of our child had not been mentioned in any reports and this was the area we most noticed as being immediately worrying. Over the first few weeks we also noticed episodes where our child would appear to ‘zone out’ and sleep became very erratic, waking 10-15 times a night. Our health visitor visited during the early weeks of placement. She expressed concerns about our child’s health and wellbeing. We advised her of the areas we were concerned about and she referred us to a community paediatrician, who then referred us on to the consultant paediatrician.

However, our child would not let any medical professional near him. No-one was able to do any sort of examination.  He could not even cope with being weighed and measured. He has tried to kick some doctors, and even now attending appointments is a two parent job – one has to support our child while the other talks with the doctor.

During early placement, we were advised by social services to parent our child normally and attend toddler groups. It was reported that he had been attending toddler groups with his previous foster carer.  However, doing this, caused him anxiety, stress and tantrums and my wife was unable to sooth him, because of attachment difficulties, as he did not trust her. The situation was spiralling out of control, with social services advising us to ‘push on through’, until 9 months later, our child experienced a break down with a child minder, who we were using, to prepare for my wife returning to her part-time job.

Fortunately the child minder wrote a very in depth report detailing what happened, and that is when social services suddenly began taking notice of our concerns. Whilst social services had thought our child was beginning to attach to us, it was actually a superficial attachment for at least the first 9 months. It is worth mentioning that our child had something like four or five social workers by the time he was placed with us, so it was hardly surprising that no-one really knew him, and we were given the wrong information to follow to parent him. We assumed that social services knew their children.  Unfortunately we have found this not to be true in our case. And our children can learn that adults are disposable, replaceable or unreliable.

It was very difficult for people to visit the house as our child would tantrum as soon as anyone came in, and continue tantruming. If we visited anywhere, our child would just run. Now we recognise it as a fear response and we have strategies in place to help us manage situations. People have now stopped visiting us and we only have very close family and friends coming now. We hope that in time, we will be able to participate in a more normal way of life, but for now, we are attending intensive therapy twice weekly with a view to increasing to three times weekly and keeping our world extremely small but manageable.

What sorts of issues did you encounter with him?

We have now had a diagnosis of global developmental delay with speech and language and social and emotional areas being described as complex / severe. Our child is four years of age but his emotional age is closer to two years and his speech is younger than that. We are also dealing with autistic traits, attachment and sensory problems, learning disability, sleep difficulties and mental health issues. With the autistic traits we are unsure at the moment, whether this is caused by his early attachment trauma or whether it will lead to a further diagnosis. Time will tell. Our child only began babbling 15 months into placement. Our life is extremely restricted.

We were told that there was a young healthy child who ate well, slept well, said a couple of words, babbled occasionally, had formed a positive attachment to its carer, with no known medical condition. The child had been removed from his birth family at a very young age. We were told that the child had slight delay which was likely to be caused by being in a placement with demanding siblings. Information regarding the child was ‘drip fed’ to us over a period of months.

Why were genetic tests then needed and what did you make of that?

During discussions regarding the child, we enquired as to the health of the siblings. There was a lot of confusion as to whether one of the siblings had been diagnosed with a condition or not, and trying to get this confirmed during the matching process was difficult. We obviously were concerned whether the condition may affect the child we were considering adopting. We were assured that our child did not have the condition and believed that our child would have been properly assessed prior to being matched and so we proceeded. The day came to attend panel to have the match approved, and for us to finally celebrate becoming a family. As we entered the building the social workers met us. We were taken into a side room where we were told that our child was now undergoing genetic testing.  We were asked whether we wished to still go ahead in front of the panel to approve the match with one social worker advising it would be ok to go ahead, and our social worker exercising caution, and advising that we should wait for the results. We were numb, confused and totally bewildered and after about 20 minutes, took the decision that we would wait for the results of the genetic tests, to see whether the match was still appropriate. We were devastated.

It was an extremely confusing time for us. Obviously, we had already emotionally committed ourselves to this child and so the thought that this may not be our child, was very difficult. We were solely reliant on the accuracy of information we were being told and this information was mixed and confusing. We had been to see the local authority’s medical advisor before, and the notes from that meeting were written up inaccurately, specifically missing out all information discussed regarding genetics, developmental delay and the medical condition. We reported this to our social worker. At this point in the process I would say we were feeling very vulnerable. The genetic tests came back negative and so the match was able to proceed.

Divorcing? Beware the Death Trap!

Divorce is not the end of the world; death is.  If you are divorced – or are considering a divorce – then there are three things that you need to consider in relation to your estate (your assets and debts) if you die.

1. What Do You Own?

If you jointly own a property and you are married or in a civil partnership then it is likely that you own it as joint tenants.  This means that if one of you dies the other will inherit the property automatically under the “survivorship” rules.

Sometimes couples own property as tenants in common (particularly if they have invested unequally).  This means that if either dies then their share passes according to their Will (or according to the intestacy rules if there is no Will).  If you are divorcing one of the first pieces of advice that you will receive, if you are a joint tenant, is to sever the joint tenancy so that you become tenants in common.

The survivorship rule can lead to some tragically difficult inheritance cases.  For example; A is married to B and they have two young children.  A is the victim of domestic violence and obtains an injunction to remove B from the family home.  B moves in with another woman and makes it clear that he wants no more to do with A or his children.  A is diagnosed with cancer and passes away very quickly, before even being able to take legal advice about a divorce or make a Will.  Her only asset is her half share of the property which passes automatically to B.  A and B’s children live with their aunt and B makes it clear that he has no intention of supporting them.  The children, through their aunt, must then bring court proceedings within 6 months of a grant of probate in order to bring their mother’s half share of the property back into the estate for the purposes of making a claim. Much of the estate is spent fighting the case against B so that the children, even though they win, receive very little.

2. Who Gets What?

While you are going through a divorce, you remain married until the divorce is made absolute.  So if you have made a Will during your marriage in which all of your estate has been left to your spouse and you die before the divorce is made absolute, your spouse will still inherit your estate under the terms of your Will.  If you have not made a Will, the rules of intestacy will provide for your spouse and unless your estate is very substantial they may inherit everything.

Sometimes people think that they do not need to make a Will – that the rules of intestacy will make adequate provision.  However that is often not the case.  By making a Will you are able to say who should administer your estate (be the executor) and make it clear about who is to inherit; you may wish to leave specific items to a particular friend or relative .  A Will also enables you to appoint a guardian to look after minor children and to choose the age at which your children inherit.

3. How to Avoid Post-Death Disputes

No one wants their death to cause a family dispute.  Unfortunately many people do just this by failing to plan for their death and to communicate their wishes to family members.

The recent high profile family war involving the children of the late Lord Lambton is a stark reminder.  Three of the daughters of the late conservative defence minister were said to be “bitterly heartbroken” that a row over his 12 million pound estate reached court 7 years after his death. Lord Lambton resigned from the government in 1973 after being caught with a prostitute.  He moved to Italy and spent the last 30 years of his life there.  When he died in 2006 aged 84 his estate was valued at  £12.1m.  His entire estate was left to his son and heir Edward Lambton the 7th Earl of Durham, but three of his daughters, Lady Lucinda Lambton, Lady Beatrix Neville and Lady Anne Lambton issued court proceedings in Italy on the basis that under Italian law all six of his children would be entitled to a share of his estate.  Their brother, the 52 year old Earl, launched High Court proceedings in London denying their claims and arguing that any dispute should be heard in England.  That dispute has now been resolved and an out of court settlement reached.

That particular dispute, because of the sums involved, may have been inevitable.  For most families the amounts concerned are usually very much smaller which can make it financially extremely risky to bring court proceedings.

It is rarely worth arguing over an estate of, say, £50,000.00 because the legal costs of the parties involved can easily swallow up the estate.  So it becomes all the more important from a practical point of view to understand who is entitled to inherit your estate, what they can expect to receive and (if you plan to exclude anyone) to explain and justify that decision in order to try to prevent litigation after your death.  In England and Wales, children do not have the right to inherit a share of their parents’ estate come what may.  You have the right to leave all of your money to the cat and dog home should you choose!

Although no one likes to contemplate their own death, to make a Will is in fact a practical affirmation of care for your loved ones and as such should be reviewed following any significant change in your life.

If you would like further information about inheritance disputes please contact Sarah Young at Ridley & Hall solicitors: on 01484 538421, 07860 165850 or by e-mail.  Sarah Young is a Partner at Ridley & Hall.  She specialises in contentious probate.  She has a record of bringing the most complex cases to a successful conclusion.

Huddersfield Law Firm Starts 2014 on a Recruitment High

Winner of the Yorkshire Lawyer Awards 2013, Ridley & Hall, has started 2014 on a high with a variety of appointments and promotions across the organisation.

Ruky Mahboob has been appointed as Practice Manager and Human Resource Lead. Ruky joins the team from Anchor Housing. She comes from a HR and Management background with over 10 years’ experience in developing and managing people to achieve business and career goals. Ruky will be working alongside Elaine Davis, formerly Practice Manager, who has now become the firm’s Finance Manager.

John Royle, formerly of Eaton Smith, joins the expanding Commercial department. John is a Senior Solicitor with a wealth of experience after many years as Managing Partner and Head of Commercial Property. John also works closely with Sarah Young and Nigel Priestley on the Huddersfield Law Society Uganda Twinning Project.

Due to growth in a variety of departments, there have been several internal promotions including Sarah Brown who has been promoted to paralegal in the Child Care and Adoption department. Sarah has been with the firm for over three years and is experienced in Residence and Special Guardianship Orders and attending meetings with the local authorities on behalf of parents. Helen Jarvis has become a paralegal in the Community Care department. Helen has been with the firm for two years and specialises in the field of Kinship Care.

Commenting on the new appointments, Managing Partner, Adam Fletcher, said, “We achieved a lot in 2013 and I am very excited by the appointments and promotions that we are announcing so early in 2014. Our recent successes are as the result of the great people we have working at Ridley & Hall and the appointments of Ruky and John only add to this. Both have a proven record of success and enthusiasm in their respective fields. The internal promotions also reiterate our aim to support home grown talent.”

From left to right; Back Row – Ruky Mahboob, Adam Fletcher, John Royle, Sarah Brown; Front Row – Helen Jarvis, Elaine Davis

Children of Domestic Abuse Victims at Risk

A report by the Family Rights Group has highlighted the need for mothers facing domestic violence to get urgent skilled legal advice.

Nigel Priestley, who is a Trustee of the Family Rights Group, commented, “All the evidence points to the emotional and psychological damage that children suffer when they see and hears their parents arguing and fighting. The FRG report now indicates they face the double threat not simply of being damaged by their carers but also the loss of family life. Women who find themselves being abused but who fear social services need to come and see one of our Family First team as a matter of urgency. It is vital that they get advice from a team that understands domestic violence and has lawyers who are highly experienced in care proceedings.”

“It is clear that a series of decisions by the government have a very negative impact on very vulnerable families.”

For more advice regarding domestic violence, please contact us on 01484 538421 or by e-mail.