It has recently come to our attention that Polish media in the UK appear to be flooded with inflammatory stories and unhelpful rhetoric about how Social Services ‘prosecute’ the Polish population here. The stories relate to Polish parents involved in care proceedings; those are by definition one sided and represent a complete lack of ethics and professionalism by those responsible for writing them. Unfortunately all this serves to create a climate of fear and mistrust of authorities amongst the Polish population in the UK. It risks alienating children and parents who need support, advice and on occasions child protection intervention. Moreover, it fosters unhelpful polarisation of views and it reduces opportunities for dialog and working in partnership in order to achieve best possible outcomes for the families involved.
There is also a trend, it seems, for some parents involved in ongoing care proceedings to post their stories all over the media and ask for donations ‘to help fund legal representation in court’. By all accounts, this represents fraud, because all parents in proceedings get legal aid funding from the state for any solicitor of their choosing. This recent call to arms, a campaign of misinformation and nationalistic sentiments, are in my view partly political.
Polish parents in the UK must be able to access unbiased, comprehensive and correct information about their rights and responsibilities when involved with UK child protection services. Until December 2015 this was the role of the Polish Family Support Centre (CPR) at POSK in London. CPR has since been rebranding and the formalities of registering a new service will hopefully be completed any day now. I feel there might have never been a greater need for the Polish community living in the UK to access such support and consultancy. When CPR is up and running again, I will continue to work there as a consultant social worker.
In the last several days we have been in contact with Polish speaking professionals across England, who feel very strongly about the need to work with the Polish community to undo the damage being done in the media. There is a growing sense of urgency about this and efforts are being made to involve major Polish stakeholders, such as the Ministry of Justice, the Polish diplomatic institutions in the UK, judiciary and professionals. So, watch this space!