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Online protest for mothers and children targeted by poverty, child removal and domestic violence

A THREE-YEAR series of protests to support mothers and children targeted by poverty, child removal and domestic violence moved online today amid the coronavirus crisis.

The monthly action, organised by the Support not Separation Coalition (SSC), had been taking place outside the Central Family Court in London, but saw thousands of online posts to make up for the lockdown.

The virtual protest was the first time that campaigners had not been outside the court since picketing started in 2017. 

SSC, which is coordinated by Legal Action for Women, said that while the coronavirus does not respect class, the poorer we are the more vulnerable we are. 

Millions of families are being thrown further into poverty by the crisis and children from poor areas are 10 times more likely to be taken into care by child services, SSC said. 

Of families whose children are taken into care, 75 per cent are single mothers, the group added.

Campaigners are demanding a care income for single mothers and other primary carers so that they can afford to care for their children and keep them safe during the crisis.

The coalition believes that while caring for people of all ages is always crucial, the pandemic has “brought home” how essential it is to survival. 

They said that if mothers were paid for caring work, they could care for children safely at home.

Other demands include appropriate emergency housing for women and children escaping domestic violence, a freeze on rent, mortgage and utility bills indefinitely, for universal credit to be available from day one and schools to provide free breakfast and lunch daily.

During the virtual protest, the SSC tweeted at children’s minister Vicky Ford: “No child should be taken into ‘care’ because parents can’t afford food, clothing or housing during Covid-19. 

“Stop treating poverty as neglect [in order to] to take children. Before Covid-19, family courts were taking children from their mothers for no good reason. What will happen now?”

SSC said that if courts have virtual hearings, they must ensure mothers and families can give evidence securely and have legal representation. 

The campaign also called for resources to be provided for children in state care to have regular contact with families now that direct contact has been stopped.

SSC said that 90 per cent of adoptions are without consent of the birth family and amount to social cleansing and called on the government to “stop forced adoptions, cutting children off from birth families forever.”

The English Collective of Prostitutes also took part in the action, tweeting that they were protesting against children being taken from mums working in the sex trade who are told by judges that they’re not “good mothers.”

“Yet most sex workers are mums working to make sure their kids don’t go hungry,” the group said.

“Take away our poverty, not our children. We aren’t criminals.”

Women Against Rape urged Ms Ford to “stop violent men abusing their ex and children through family court.”

Women of Colour Global Women’s Strike warned that black and immigrant mothers are especially vulnerable and suggested that funding be taken from corporations and warmongers.

Other groups to support the protest included grassroots campaign for women with disabilities WinVisible, Psychotherapy and Counselling Union (PCU), as well as hundreds of social media users.

The SSC thanked people for taking part in the online action, adding that the next protest will take place on May 6 — either online or outside the court in Holborn if the lockdown is lifted.

Victims’ Commissioner Dame Vera Baird called for children living with domestic abuse to be classed as victims of crime yesterday as levels are feared to “grow sharply” during the coronavirus outbreak.

She warned that current lockdown measures pose an “unprecedented risk” to victims of domestic abuse, and said she feared front-line services will struggle to cope. 

Ms Baird said the act should not be seen as a “short-term problem” and said the impacts can be “huge and far-reaching,” putting children at greater risk of criminal and sexual exploitation.

Recognising children as victims rather than merely witnesses would allow them to access the support they need, she added. 

As many as one in five children in Britain witness or are exposed to domestic abuse during childhood, according to NSPCC figures.

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