Well, it certainly got a lot of people going.
The Mirror yesterday announced, ‘Seventy-four kids taken into care for their own protection as they are TOO FAT.’ The capitals were theirs by the way, not mine.
The Telegraph said, in somber monotone, ‘Obese children removed from families.’
The Mail, true to form, upped the anti with its headline.
‘More than 70 morbidly obese children overfed by parents are taken into care.’ Now that stood out. It was use of the word ‘morbidly,’ that gave it the clout. It so beautifully wrapped the medical term in hole of dark, brooding gloom.
But what I’m not sure about is how I was expected to react to these headlines.
Should I have been horrified that that as many as 74 children in the UK were taken into care because of the size of their stomachs? Should I be lobbying my MP? Should I be petrol bombing McDonalds and storming my local chip shop in protest at their role in the fight against flab?
I don’t think so.
In the year leading up to March 2013, just over 11,100 care applications were issued in the courts. If, using the figures we have, 74 of those applications were due to obesity, well, that’s not a lot is it. Being a self-diagnosed dyscalculic and so not totally reliable on figures, I make that 0.004%.
So, are we on the brink of the care system collapsing under the weight of too much weight?
Well no. Granted, on the face of it, it is a shocker that children are being taken into care because of their size. But for a care order to be made, the court has to be satisfied that the child ‘has suffered or is likely to suffer from significant harm.’ And the obese, everyone knows, face a massive risk of serious illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer. So, on a harm scale, those type of risks to a child could easily be seen as significant.
Plus for a care case to even start, family assessments should have been made with planning for support. A care application should then be the very last resort. So where a parent is simply unable to either protect a child from extreme over eating or react positively to information and education about the health risks of obesity, maybe care proceedings are the only option.
Whenever any child goes in to care it is very sad. Especially in view of some of the experiences some children and young people have of the care system. In an ideal world, the social care budget would be huge and parents would engage happily with the excellent support services on offer. However, we are not in that place. My guess is these few cases highlighted involved parents who were simply unable to accept the health risks and act accordingly. They may of course also include cases where children are voluntarily placed in care by their parents or are in care (so that the Local Authority has legal responsibility for them) but are living at home. It will now be interesting to see how this recent statistic changes.