A political scandal has erupted in Britain after a local council took away three “ethnic” children from a foster family, because the parents support anti-immigration UK Independence Party. After a firestorm of criticism, the move will be reviewed.
The removal was carried out and defended by the Rotherham Borough Council in the north of England.
The couple in question (who have wished to remain anonymous) are in their fifties, with the wife a qualified child nurse, and have been registered foster parents for over six years.
In September, they were given an emergency placement of a baby girl, a boy, and an older girl from a troubled family of immigrant descent. The assignment was initially judged a success by the council’s child services, with the foster parents described as “exemplary” and the children as “thriving,” with the baby steadily gaining weight.
After eight weeks, the foster agency received an anonymous tip-off that the couple were registered members of the UK Independence Party (UKIP).
The wife told the Daily Telegraph that she was “dumbfounded” when a council representative visited their house, and challenged them over their UKIP membership.
“My question to both of them was, 'What has UKIP got to do with having the children removed?’ Then one of them said, 'Well, UKIP have got racist policies.’ The implication was that we were racist.”
The party – which consistently scores around ten per cent in opinion polls – campaigns against immigration, multiculturalism and political correctness, but is not widely regarded as a radical party.
"I’ve got mixed race in my family. I said, 'I am absolutely offended that you could come in my house and accuse me of being a member of a racist party,’” the wife told the visitor.
Within a week all the children were removed from her care.
The family says they were “stigmatized and slandered.”
“We felt like we were criminals,” said the wife, who believes the local council will not entrust any more children into the family’s care.
Once the story broke, the council initially stood by its decision.
"Also the fact of the matter is I have to look at the children's cultural and ethnic needs,” Joyce Thacker, the council's Director of Children and Young People's Services, said during a BBC radio interview on Saturday morning.
"These children are from EU migrant backgrounds and UKIP has very clear statements on ending multiculturalism, not having that going forward, and I have to think about how sensitive I am being to those children."
Thacker also said the council was under obligation to be particularly careful, after a judge in a different case criticized it for being insensitive to the cultural needs of children from different ethnic backgrounds than the foster parents.
Politicians then rounded on the beleaguered council.
"Rotherham Council have made the wrong decision in the wrong way for the wrong reasons. Rotherham's reasons for denying this family the chance to foster are indefensible," said minister Michael Gove, who manages the department responsible for children’s services, and was himself adopted as a child.
Opposition leader David Miliband, whose Labour Party runs the council, immediately distanced himself from its decisions.
"We need loving homes for children across the country. That can come in different forms, it's not about what political party you are a member of," he declared in a statement.
UKIP leader Nigel Farage called the decision“political prejudice of the worst kind.”
The Rotherham Borough Council has since backtracked on the decision, and will conduct an internal investigation. Initial conclusions are expected on Monday.