The findings of a major research project concerning FII have been published today. This research report considers the prevalence and impact on families in England, Scotland and Wales of being accused of creating or exaggerating their child’s difficulties – an extreme form of parent carer blame. Instances of this kind are referred to as ‘Fabricated or Induced Illness’ (FII).
A parent interviewed describes how she was accused of FII. She was providing medication for her disabled daughter on the instructions of hospital doctors. A doctor at a different hospital disagreed alleging that she was “killing” her child and that if she didn’t stop the medication, she’d “go to social services, and get her taken off me”.
After the medication was removed her mum says she is haunted at the memory of watching her daughter apparently in pain. “She would give us this look, begging me to help her, and I couldn’t. We had to just sit there and watch.”
The Report’s ‘Key Messages’
- The major finding of the research is one of family trauma. The making of an FII allegation often causes devastating and life-long trauma to those accused and to their children.
- FII allegations against parents of disabled children appear to be widespread and increasing. Parents in at least 74% of English children’s services authorities have experienced FII allegations – and authorities in Scotland and Wales were also reported as initiating allegations of this nature.
- Disabled parents appear to be four times more likely to be accused of FII than non-disabled parents – suggesting a significant risk of widespread unlawful discrimination against disabled people.
- 50% of allegations of FII were made after a parent carer had complained about the actions of the relevant public body.
- Most FII allegations (84%) resulted in no follow up-action or were abandoned and in 95% of the cases the child(ren) remained living with the parent.
- Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) 2021 FII guidance is likely to give rise to a very high number of ‘false positives’ (people being wrongly accused of FII).
- NHS practitioners were the source of most FII allegations, followed by schools and then local authority children’s services.
Launching the report, Professor Luke Clements said:
“The evidence suggests a significant increase in the numbers of parents – especially disabled parents – being inappropriately accused of FII. These allegations have a devastating and often life-long impact on families – including their children: the very people the system is supposed to protect. There is an urgent need for a radical overhaul of policy and practice in this field”.
The research report calls for:
Urgent revision to the RCPCH (2021) FII guidance including:
(1) to address its failure to recognise the harm to parents and children caused by allegations of FII
(2) to address the danger that its ‘alerting signs’ may have an unlawful discriminatory impact on disabled parents
(3) to acknowledge that its ‘alerting signs’ (of FII) are unsupported by any peer reviewed research.
The full report can be downloaded here.
The report is based on research undertaken by the Cerebra Legal Entitlements and Problem-solving (LEaP) Project based at the School of Law, Leeds University.
The research involved an analysis of data obtained from a survey of 387 parent carers, freedom of information requests and on-line searches of local authority websites.