06:54, December 06 281 0 theguardian.com

2019-12-06 06:54:05
Berkshire couple win race discrimination case over adoption

A couple have been awarded nearly £120,000 in damages after a judge ruled they were discriminated against by not being allowed to adopt a child.

Sandeep and Reena Mander, from Maidenhead in Berkshire, had their application to join a register of approved adopters turned down because of their Indian ancestry, and were told their chances would be improved if they looked to adopt in India or Pakistan.

The couple sued the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead for discrimination and their case was backed by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

The judge, Melissa Clarke, ruled: “I find that the defendants directly discriminated against Mr and Mrs Mander on the grounds of race.”

Clarke awarded the couple general damages of about £29,000 each and special damages totalling £60,000 for the cost of adopting a child overseas.

The judge also made a declaration that the council “directly discriminated” against the couple in the provision of adoption services on the grounds of race.

But she rejected their claim to have been discriminated against under article 12 of the European convention on human rights – concerning the right to found a family.

In her judgment, Clarke said: “I consider that there is clear evidence that Mr and Mrs Mander, who I have found expressed willingness to consider a child of any ethnicity, received less favourable treatment than would a comparable couple of a different ethnicity.

“All of this discloses, in my judgment, what the unknown social worker stated in the very first phone call with Mr Mander, namely that Adopt Berkshire operated a policy of placing adoptive children with parents who come from the ‘same background’ – namely race.

“I am satisfied that race was the criterion by which the unknown social worker decided not to book an initial visit with Mr and Mrs Mander, because the defendants have not satisfied me that there was any other criterion applied by that unknown social worker.

“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.”