Discrimination ruling in adoption law…
4 February 2020 by Alexandra Drew
In the reported case of Mander v Windsor and Maidenhead RBC  12 WLUK 79 (6 December 2019) Sandeep and Reena Mander, the claimants, who are British born and of Indian descent, were awarded £120,000 in damages, after it was ruled that they were discriminated against when they had their application to join Adoption Berkshire’s register of approved adopters refused.
The Manders, who were seeking to adopt a child of any ethnicity, were advised that they would be more successful if they adopted from India.
In the case HHJ Clarke declared that Adoption Berkshire had directly discriminated against the Manders on the grounds of race by refusing to allow them to join the register, but rejected their claim that they were discriminated against in contravention of Article 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to found a family).
Statutory guidance on adoption for local authorities, voluntary adoption agencies and adoption support agencies (published in July 2013) provides that an application to join a register of approved adopters must not be refused on grounds of ethnicity and culture. Instead, such considerations may be relevant at the later stage of matching children with prospective adopters, but not when considering the recruitment and suitability of prospective adopters.
Adoption Berkshire’s social workers admitted that they considered race when they refused to progress the Mander’s application, where including race as a criterion is supposed to be irrelevant. The trial judge said that “all the evidence points to Adopt Berkshire’s refusal to progress Mr and Mrs Mander being made on the assumption that it would not be in a putative child’s best interest to be matched with prospective adopters who did not share their race. This assumption was a stereotype which gave race a disproportionate importance as a factor regarding the welfare of children.”
A spokesperson for the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, the defendant, stated that they were disappointed with the outcome of the case. The defendant expressed that it had reviewed its policies to make sure they do not exclude prospective adopters on the grounds of ethnicity in the future.
Lawyers for the Manders said the judgment was a landmark ruling which extends the legal protections in the arena of discrimination in adoption law.
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