Re Polly Toynbee's article "If this came flat-packed ..."

Re: Polly Toynbee's article "If this came flat-packed..."

 By Mark Rowlands, engineer, Stockholm





Mark Rowlands is a British citizen, married to a Swede and the father of two sons. He is an engineer residing in Sweden so he has first-hand knowledge of the Swedish child protection services.

This letter to the Editor at The Guardian is in response to Polly Toynbee's article published on March 5, 2004, "If this came flat-packed...". 

This letter is published here with the special consent of its author.




Whilst I have no argument with the basic premise of the article, more spending on childcare equals better childcare. There is however a substantial factual error within the article.


"Early social help means very few children go into care, compared with 60,000 here."


According to the Swedish social services own statistics, 26 482 children were in care in 2002. This, proportionally, is three times greater than the figure Ms Toynbee supplies for the UK.


Now it is unlikely that Swedish parents are three times as likely to mistreat their children as British parents so I think you must look elsewhere for the reasons for this.


There are a number of factors involved but one of the problems is a very loosely worded law that allows for intervention where any child's emotional or mental development is judged to be at risk by a social worker, coupled with a very strict definition of what actions are to be taken.


Once intervention has taken place, which is invariably to get the children away from the parents, it is extremely difficult to actually get a child out of this system.


There is a huge interdependent network of foster homes, psychologists and examining doctors whose income largely depends upon a steady flow of "troubled" children. The social workers themselves, would of course be out of a job without plenty of casework for them to be getting along with. Every effort is therefore dedicated to ensuring the family is broken up.


So of course you go to court, you might hope for a legally impartial adjudication.

Forget it! An administrative court, with very low standards of proof and often very low standards of expertise will decide the case.


These courts will often deny parents their choice of lawyer, especially if that lawyer is a specialist in these cases, unattributed hearsay evidence is permissible and the court will often deny the parents the right to call their own specialist witnesses, (always assuming they can afford them).


In short, the Swedish childcare model is founded upon an assumption that the State will always be the better parent of the child. In the pursuit of this ideology and in the furtherance of financial self interest, a system has come to pass which breaches many of the UN and European Conventions on both human and children's rights and has caused countless cases of unnecessary heartbreak.


I sincerely hope for the sake of Britain's family life, that you avoid the mistakes made in Sweden.




Mark Rowlands



"If this came flat-packed..."
By Polly Toynbee



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