William Eichler 09 December 2019

Court rules adoption service ‘discriminated against’ couple

A court has awarded a couple £120,000 in damages after their local adoption service turned them away because of their Indian heritage.

Adopt Berkshire told Sandeep and Reena Mander ‘not to bother applying’ due to their Asian background when the couple approached the agency three years ago.

The Manders sued The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Council arguing that they felt ‘directly discriminated against’. The council denied the charge.

Judge Melissa Clarke concluded that the Sikh couple had indeed been discriminated against on the grounds of race.

‘Today’s judgment is a victory for all British children who need loving adoptive homes, and for all the eligible, loving adoptive British families hoping to welcome them into their lives,’ said Georgina Calvert-Lee, senior counsel at McAllister Olivarius, the law firm that represented the couple.

‘From the start, Adopt Berkshire acknowledged that the Manders were excellent candidates to be adoptive parents. And yet Adopt Berkshire refused to even let them apply, prejudging them based on how they defined the Manders’ “cultural identity”.

‘The Manders are British, and they treasure the central British value of fairness. They therefore asked the court for the basic right to be treated on equal footing with other British couples.’

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Mander said that he thought cultural heritage is important but he believed ‘a number of factors need to be looked at’.

‘Your cultural heritage, your financial stability as a couple, how young you are, where you live – all sorts of things need to be looked at,’ he said.

A spokesperson from the council said that they were ‘disappointed’ by the court’s judgment.

‘We have reviewed our policies to ensure they are fit for purpose and are confident that we do not exclude prospective adopters on the grounds of ethnicity,’ they said.

‘Finally, we always put the best interests of the children at the heart of any adoption decisions and are committed to best practice in our provision of adoption services.’

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