Disabled Mothers’ Rights Campaign

A white woman with glasses speaks on a microphone below a building sign: Central Family Court/Court of Protection. Behind her, placard says: Adoptions -- 90% without consent.  A proud disabled mum sits upright holding her daughter who is perching on the armrest of her wheelchair.  They are Afro-Caribbean and have long hair in plaits.  Both are smiling.
Tracey Norton of the Disabled Mothers’ Rights Campaign at monthly picket of the Central Family Court in London, called by Support Not Separation. Nicole Als and her daughter.

Our campaign

Our Disabled Mothers’ Rights Campaign brings disabled mothers together to defend our rights to have and to keep our children. 

We are fighting to stop the cruelty and discrimination we face from Council social services and the family courts taking our children away. 

We are campaigning to get the support from official agencies which we are entitled to by law.  (The laws are the Care Act, Children Act, Equality Act, and the international United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which the UK government signed up to in 2009).

Two photos.  1st: A smiling blind mum stands with her new baby wrapped to her in a sling, by her older daughters who play on swings.  2nd: Support Not Separation monthly picket of the Central London family court.  A woman wheelchair user speaks on the microphone.  She has a placard: Being a disabled mum is not "harm" to children --Disabled Mothers' Rights Campaign. Next to her is a Black woman with short hair and glasses, whose placard says Stop taking the children of single mothers.  Above her is a yellow banner protesting against the £20 cut to Universal Credit.

Get involved

Meet other disabled mums, help campaign together. There’s lots to do! Have your say on our Campaign demands as mothers from various backgrounds and situations. We have particular needs and shared experiences.

Tell us your experiences

We are gathering the stories of disabled mums’ struggles and victories. Please get in touch.

We say being a disabled mum is NOT ‘harm’ to children. A mum responded: “No, actually we are not bad mums, if anything we are more amazing because on top of disabilities we always put our children 1st and do stuff that people wouldn’t even know how to manage.” See: Disabled mums: “we’re the experts!”

Our stories

Images in silhouette of a wheelchair user mum playing with her young daughter.  The WinVisible logo: the fist of a woman of colour holds banknotes, framed inside the Egyptian Eye of Horus combined with a women's symbol.  Silhouette of a visually impaired woman walking with a  cane.

Podcast for International Women’s Day 8 March 2022

Disabled women talk about discrimination in social care. Click here to listen to the podcast.

Polling station sign with arrow

May 2022 Local Council elections — people used our template letter to question candidates on support for mothers and children, for independent living and against homecare charges for support services.

Picket of the Family Court

Outside the central Family Court, protesters hold the WinVisible banner and placards saying: Respect Mothers.  Care Act says Councils must support disabled mums -- Disabled Mothers' Rights Campaign.

WinVisible is part of the Support Not Separation coalition co-ordinated by Legal Action for Women. Take part with us at the monthly picket of the Central Family Court, held by Support Not Separation. When: First Wednesday of every month, 12.30pm-1.30pm

Where: outside Central Family Court, First Avenue House, 42-49 High Holborn, London WC1V 6NP

Online: Twitter storm @WinVisibleWomen @NotSeparation at the same time every month.

Next date: Wed 2 November 2022.

Help us gather information about the discrimination we face as disabled mums.

If you are part of a group, get in touch and we can visit you on Zoom about the campaign, discuss what you can do in your borough and area. 

Sign up to our Campaign: we welcome endorsements from organisations and professionals.

Professionals are welcome to contribute your experience and suggestions.

Contact us for more info and to get involved:

Disabled Mothers’ Rights Campaign

Email: mumsrights@winvisible.org

WinVisible (women with visible and invisible disabilities), Crossroads Women’s Centre, 25 Wolsey Mews, London NW5 2DX

Tel: 020 7482 2496

Follow us on Twitter @WinVisibleWomen and @NotSeparation

Why are we campaigning?

Disabled mums are routinely labelled “unfit mothers” and accused of harm or neglect when we ask the Council for support.  In our experience, most children’s social workers think that a disabled mother must be bad for her child.  They may predict that your child will be your carer, which they say is “future harm” and a reason to take your child away before this happens.  They may say that you will disable your child by projecting your own disability onto them.

If disabled mothers complain to the Council that we are not getting the support we need, this can be used as a reason to start “child protection”.  Also, social services and the family courts don’t make sure that meetings and court hearings are accessible.  So we can’t understand or take part properly, when professionals and judges are making decisions about our family.  All this leads to unfair separations of disabled mothers and children.  Wrongful separation causes immense distress and lifelong trauma to children and mothers. 

Up to 70% of parents with learning disabilities have their children removed (Elfrida Society Parents Project, see Legal Action for Women’s dossier, page 45-46).  Mothers with invisible or unrecognised conditions such as Ehlers-Danlos and autism also suffer disproportionate loss of our children.   

Those of us who are mothers of colour and immigrant mothers are targeted, being 44% of all mothers contacting Legal Action for Women (LAW) for support with being put under child protection. And 44% of mothers who contacted LAW had mental distress, much of which was caused or made worse by family court proceedings, often lasting many years.

Disabled women are twice as likely to suffer domestic violence as non-disabled women.  In the family court, disabled mothers who suffered domestic violence face double discrimination as “unfit mothers” blamed for not protecting children or blamed for refusing the father contact with the children (“parental alienation”), and more likely to lose custody to the violent father.

Our Campaign is for non-mothers too.  Motherhood is a painful topic for disabled mothers who have had children taken, and can be for non-mothers too.  Some disabled women have suffered forced sterilisation and forced contraception.  Some disabled women told us that our campaign is nothing to do with them — but the reason is, they never had children as the barriers seemed overwhelming — and are overwhelming.  Some said they had an abortion despite wishing to have a family.  One woman saw no point continuing with pregnancy as Social Services would see her mental health diagnosis on file and immediately take the baby away. 

We are campaigning so all disabled women have the choice to start a family and be supported.

A woman speaking on the microphone outside the Central London family court.  Behind her is a placard, Adoptions: 90% without consent.

What the Campaign has done so far:

  • Telling our stories in Zoom workshops and group meetings.  
  • Speaking up as disabled mothers at public meetings and policy discussions on social care, independent living, disability rights, benefits.
  • Taken part – in person or on Twitter online — in the monthly picket of the Central family court called by Support Not Separation.  And many mothers can’t be public but our experiences are represented there. See a previous video of the picket on International Women’s Day, March 2017.
Logo of The independent review of children's social care, black lower case letters on a beige background.  Three coloured diamond shapes slot together at different angles.
  • Evidence to the Independent review of children’s social care (August 2021).  Read our joint testimony with Legal Action for Women/Support Not Separation.  Nearly half of the cases given concern disabled mothers. The Review put out recommendations in May 2022 — we are worried that increasing the number and involvement of social workers and other professionals, rather than providing practical support to mothers, will increase disability discrimination. More info here.
  • Evidence for the Shadow Report by disability organisations on whether the UK government is following the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In particular, Article 23Respect for home and the family, the right to found a family and be supported.
  • Talking to organisations and social care campaigns so people know more about disabled mothers, the discrimination we face, and what they can do.

If you need help for your case

Visit the Self-help guide by Support Not Separation and advice on what to do if your case is urgent. The guide includes advice applicable to all mums, and some information specifically for disabled mums. 

If you need support, let us know and we can help you find support. 

Legal Action for Women holds regular self-help meetings for mothers and other primary carers facing children’s social services and family court problems. For more info, email sns@legalactionforwomen.net

Resources

We work with other groups that offer support and resources for disabled mums.  These include:

Blind Parents UK group for blind parents and carers to support each other and share information. For example, how to pull a buggy.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image.png
Philippa Lomas of Blind Parents UK shows how to pull and steer a buggy behind you.

Ehlers-Danlos Support UK

Elfrida Society Parents Project (parents with learning disabilities)

Sign Health support service for deaf women suffering domestic abuse

Our funder Thanks to the Trust for London — Strengthening Voices, Realising Rights — for their support.