Renewed harassment of McDougalls is indefensible

Picture of Kerry McDougallOn Sunday I read, via Sarah Ismail, that the McDougall family (Mark and Kerry McDougall, née Robertson, and their sons Ben and Lochlan) have faced renewed “investigation” since they have returned to Dunfermline, their home town, from nearly four years of exile in Ireland (see previous entry, and also this for another example of that department’s incompetence). They moved there in 2009 after local social services intervened to stop them marrying, and then threatened to take their first son into care, on the grounds of Kerry’s (mild) learning difficulties. In the event, Irish social services did take Ben into care, but returned him after nine months and allowed them to marry. The story was reported as the woman “too dumb” to understand her marriage vows, although Kerry had taken a childcare course and had worked caring for children and had other explanations for her lack of academic achievement, such as missing school because of surgery for a cleft palate.

The family moved back because Mark and Kerry missed their home and wanted to bring up their sons with their extended family. They claim that they visited the social work department prior to returning and had been assured that they had no further concerns, but since their return have been told that social workers were reopening proceedings and had received “a letter from Fife Social Services summoning them to a meeting with a panel of social workers, doctors and other child experts next week”. They also say that Mark had been told not to take a job as a night warehouseman, because this would mean Kerry would be alone with their sons.

This was pretty disturbing the first time round, and I do not believe that the Irish social workers come out of it looking particularly good — I do not believe it should have taken nine months of separation to demonstrate that Kerry was a suitable mother, particularly as she was not a single parent — but now that they have demonstrated that they are suitable, both from satisfying the Irish social workers’ assessments and raising their sons apparently successfully for the past three years, they should be left alone. There are other parents with learning disabilities who bring up children, even if with support, which Kerry McDougall has and always has had. It is difficult to conceive of any other reason for their renewed ‘interest’ in this family other than a mixture of spite and the same prejudices that were apparent last time.

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