Many people have contacted me over the somewhat formulaic response to their requests for information about breastfeeding babies and their care via Essex Social Services.
The response from Cllr Tracey Chapman states:
"However, in general terms we can assure you that in all cases where there are concerns about the welfare of a child we undertake a full assessment of all the circumstances to decide on the action that needs to be taken to ensure he or she is appropriately safeguarded. In the case of very small babies this will include an assessment of the benefits to the child of ongoing breastfeeding, together with all the other factors that contribute to his or her safety and well being. Such assessments are undertaken in line with national government guidance."
As Essex have thus stated that they follow national guidelines on how to treat breastfeeding babies, I then contacted the Department of Children, Schools and Families, to request a copy of them.
The Department, who were very helpful, and took the time to have an extensive conversation with me on the details, have stated that there are no official guidelines currently published by them. They are currently under review, jointly with the Department of Health, and have not been published because of this.
We discussed that there must be previous guidelines, from prior to the formation of the Department, presumably with the Department of Health's input. Agreeing on this, the Department said it would investigate on my behalf, and see if they could track down any and all prior guidelines - but given the nature of the search, looking into previous work that will have been done some time ago by another department that no longer exists, it may prove time consuming.
I said I'd contact the Department of Health, as they are the ones who would put forward the health based guidelines to Social Services. I will keep you updated.
Which brings us to the really pertinent question: which national guidelines are Essex following?
It is an entirely legitimate act for any member of the public, to request information on precise guidelines being followed by any Government department. They should be able to answer directly, with the name of the legislation, or the guideline, the date of the document, who issued it, and how they then ensure they follow the procedure.
It is incredibly reassuring to hear that Essex is following the national Government guidelines: for it should then be a simple matter for them to be able to quote the legislation, or guideline, when asked to do so.
Again, I will keep you updated.