Sarah Vine on why children not placed with other family

Even the most avid supporter of multi-cultural Britain would have to admit it seems spectacularly insensitive of Tower Hamlets Council to have placed a five-year-old Christian girl with strict Muslim foster carers.

But, leaving aside the question of cultural integration, there is a wider issue here: why was the child being fostered?

The details of why she was removed from her mother are not known. What we do know is that her grandmother made repeated attempts to obtain custody of the child, but had been blocked at every turn by the council.

The girl was finally reunited with her grandmother last night after a court ruling.

Frankly, in most families, the child’s own grandparents should be the very first port of call (stock photo)

You might have thought that placing a child from a troubled family with a carefully supervised close relative would be the first choice for any local authority. But that is simply not so.

Years ago, a good friend of mine had a daughter who fell into a cycle of addiction. She was a gorgeous, bright girl from a loving, middle-class family — but drugs got her at a young age and, despite numerous stints in rehab, she never truly recovered.

She ended up becoming pregnant, and the child was born prematurely, in agonies of withdrawal. Despite this, the baby survived, and the mother was allowed to take it home, whereupon she fell prey once again to her addictions.

The baby suffered terrible neglect, and my friend was desperate to get her grandchild out of this toxic environment.

But Islington social services in North London blocked her at every turn. She was treated as an interfering nuisance. It was heart-breaking: not only had she lost her daughter to drugs, now she was losing her grandchild, too.

Luckily for the baby, my friend was made of stern stuff. It took her many distressing hours in court and most of her life savings in legal fees, but she finally prised the child out of their clutches.

And my friend is far from being the only grandparent who’s had to fight just to be able to look after their own flesh and blood.

Just one example was reported three years ago, when it emerged that a couple from Essex had spent 18 months fighting to gain guardianship of their little granddaughter.

Their daughter had become too mentally unstable to look after her own child. In the end, they came within two days of losing the girl for ever after Essex social services launched proceedings that would have resulted in her forced adoption by strangers.

There is another issue here that has received little attention: money. Did you know that Tower Hamlets advertises foster carer allowances for a child aged 5-10 of between £313 and £353 a week? That’s a nice little earner.

But hang on. Why are we paying unsuitable people to look after children when there are countless couples longing for a child to love?

How many have spent years on adoption registers, jumping through ridiculous hoops and performing endless box-ticking exercises, only to be told that they don’t quite come up to scratch — or their lifestyles are incompatible?

That is the real scandal that underpins this case, and others like it. The fact is that either through stupidity, inefficiency or sheer bloody-mindedness, social services would rather pay someone, irrespective of whether or not the child will be miserable, than find a home where someone wants to offer the one thing that has no price: a mother’s love.

Frankly, in most families, the child’s own grandparents should be the very first port of call.


Forget Jackie O, it’s Kim oh-no! 

When you’ve shown the world every part of your anatomy, what’s left to grab our attention?

Cue Kim Kardashian’s latest incarnation as Jackie Kennedy, all big hair and demure skirt suits (accessorised with daughter North West). She is America’s new self-declared ‘First Lady’.

Her husband, the rapper Kanye West, has already signalled his intention to run for President. I wonder if he would handle North Korea any better than Trump.

Kim Kardashian is pictured with daughter North West showing off her Jackie Kennedy look

Kim Kardashian is pictured with daughter North West showing off her Jackie Kennedy look


Call this a carnival?

Any event that resulted in 300 arrests, 31 police officers being injured and an acid attack would normally trigger a national emergency.

But because it’s Notting Hill Carnival and so ‘culturally sensitive’, we all have to pretend it’s lovely.

When are politicians going to wise up and realise that this — and other similar events such as Reading Festival, where a 17-year-old boy died at the weekend — are now little more than a free pass for unscrupulous drug dealers and criminals?


Against all the odds, Josie Russell, whose mother and sister were murdered by hammer killer Michael Stone, has grown into a happy and beautiful young woman.

Josie has just announced her engagement to boyfriend Iwan Griffith, with whom she hopes to start a family. Proof that sometimes good really can trump evil.

Josie, pictured right, has just announced her engagement to boyfriend Iwan Griffith, pictured left

Josie, pictured right, has just announced her engagement to boyfriend Iwan Griffith, pictured left

How to rein in grasping bosses

I hardly think Mike Ashley, of Sports Direct infamy, is going to be quaking in his Ferragamo crocs at the thought of being ‘placed on a public register’ for creaming off profit at the expense of his employees.

Or Sir Philip Green, no doubt currently relaxing in a bath of warm champagne somewhere off the Amalfi Coast.

If Theresa May is serious about giving ‘the unacceptable face of capitalism’ a slap in the face, simply naming and shaming miscreants isn’t enough. You have to hit them where it hurts: the wallet.


Have you noticed how every new buzzword generates a counterpart? My favourite is ‘vice-signalling’ — the opposite, of course, of ‘virtue-signalling’. In my case, vice-signalling might involve a photo of all the empty wine bottles in the recycling bin.


Just as it’s only men who perspire while women glow, the idea of Dame Joan Collins doing anything so vulgar as snoring — as her husband, Percy, claims — is out of the question.

Men snore; women snorfle. The former is noisy and annoying and may require banishment to the sofa; the latter must never be mentioned upon pain of death.


Why does it seem to take longer to get into France at passport control than it does to fly there?

If my recent experience in Bordeaux and Toulouse is anything to go by, it has less to do with the volume of passengers than the fact that fewer than half the booths were manned.

Those that were appeared to be occupied by power-crazed jobsworths who were clearly enjoying every second of our discomfort.

The French, vindictive? Impossible.

Bake Off falls flat

Like many, I tuned in eagerly to Channel 4 last night to watch the new version of The Great British Bake Off.

Most disappointing: it’s indistinguishable from the original, right down to the same tent and the cringeworthy double entendres.

Paul is still orange, Prue is reassuringly posh and strict and the contestants are suitably saucy.

The only difference is that Mel seems to have let herself go a bit and Sue has grown her hair rather too long.

Still, you can’t have everything . . .

Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding are pictured on the first episode of the new Great British Bake Off

Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding are pictured on the first episode of the new Great British Bake Off


I tend to agree with Olympic gold medal-winning cyclist Sir Chris Hoy that only people who have the body of a jockey should dare to appear in public wearing Lycra.

The popularity of cycling has led to our streets being infested with MAMILs (middle-aged men in Lycra), who seem to think the mere act of encasing their moobs and bulging tums in the stuff immediately makes them fitter.

Chaps, all it does is make you look like a blancmange on wheels.


Former cricketer Freddie Flintoff has revealed that he wears his Fitbit activity tracking wristband during sex ‘to get my steps in’ and hit his daily exercise target.

The fact that he seems to regard intercourse with his wife of 12 years as a workout, on a par with a session at the gym or a run in the park, tells you a lot about the difference between the sexes. Still, I suppose it’s (marginally) better than doing it with his socks on.