UK & World News
UKIP Foster Care Row: Investigation Launched
Rotherham Council has launched an investigation into the decision to remove three foster children from a couple because of their membership of the UK Independence Party.
Councillor Paul Lakin, Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Family Services, made the announcement following criticism from across the political spectrum.
"This was a decision taken by social services professionals and I have ordered an immediate investigation to establish the full facts of this decision and asked for the report to be on my desk on Monday morning," he said.
UKIP leader Nigel Farage condemned the case as "outrageous", while Education Secretary Michael Gove, who was himself adopted as a child, said the Labour-controlled council's decision was "plain wrong" and "indefensible".
The three children were removed from the care of an unnamed couple from South Yorkshire, who have been fostering for seven years.
They had taken on a baby girl, a boy and an older girl from an non-indigenous white British and troubled family background in September.
Less than eight weeks into the placement they were visited by a Rotherham social worker and foster agency official, who accused them of belonging to a party with "racist policies" and unsuitable to look after the children.
The husband and wife told The Daily Telegraph they were left "dumbfounded" and "offended".
The visit followed an anonymous tip-off about the couple's party membership.
Rotherham Council had earlier said it needed to consider the children's "cultural and ethnic needs" and highlighted UKIP's policy on multiculturalism.
Mr Gove told Sky News: "I think it's quite, quite wrong for Rotherham Council, or indeed for any other local authority, to say that people should not be foster or adoptive parents on these grounds."
But Downing Street rejected reports that Prime Minister David Cameron had retracted a previous statement made on LBC radio in 2006 where he referred to Ukip members as "fruit cakes and loonies and closet racists mostly".
A spokesman said: "We haven't retracted anything. The Prime Minister never said that every single member of Ukip is a racist and the point about adoption cases is parents need to be judged on their merits, not affiliation to a political party."
Joyce Thacker, Strategic Director of Children and Young People's services at the council, said the children had been placed with the couple as an emergency and it was never going to be a long-term arrangement.
However, Mr Farage demanded an apology from the council for the "concern and the upset they have caused".
He told Sky News he had spoken to the couple, who were "very upset and distressed" by what had happened.
He insisted: "UKIP is a non-racist, non-sectarian political party. I mean, for goodness sake, we have got the Croydon North by-election going on at the moment where Jamaican-born Winston McKenzie is our candidate, so there are absolutely no grounds for this at all."
Labour leader Ed Milband told Sky News: "Being a member of UKIP should not be a bar to adopting or fostering children."
The Daily Telegraph said the couple had denied they were racist and told the officials they would not have taken them on if they were.
The wife said: "I was dumbfounded. Then my question to both of them was, 'What has UKIP got to do with having the children removed?'
"Then one of them said, 'Well, UKIP have got racist policies'. The implication was that we were racist."
She said she was left "bereft", adding: "We felt like we were criminals. From having a little baby in my arms, suddenly there was an empty cot."
The woman also said the council feared the couple could not meet the children's cultural needs in the long term - a claim the family denied.
"We were actively encouraging these children to speak their own language and to teach us their language," she was quoted as saying by the Sheffield-based Star newspaper.
"We enjoyed singing one of their folk songs in their native language, and having been told of the religious denomination of these children, we took steps to ensure that a school of their denomination was found."