There has been a backlash after a court ruled to remove two teenagers from their mother because they are overweight.
The teenagers, aged 13 and 17, have now been taken into care due to their health.
A judge in Sussex ruled the teens should be placed with a foster family. She said otherwise ‘their health needs will continue to be neglected and they will continue to put on weight’.
It is the first ruling to have been made public, where children have been removed because of obesity.
District Judge Gillian Ellis described the boy aged 17 and girl of 13 as ‘thoughtful, intelligent and articulate children’.
It has been said that social workers have been assisting the family for almost a decade. They supplied the family with Fitbits, gym passes and Weight Watchers membership, the children had failed to lose weight.
The court heard the mother ‘failed to instil in the children habits of healthy eating, exercise, and good self-care’.
They said the mother snacked on ‘crisps and ice creams’ in the house.
Judge Ellis said: “I accept what she says about the difficulty of compelling teenagers to act in a certain way but, clearly, had these habits been encouraged and modelled to the children from an early age, no element of compulsion would now arise.”
The judge adds: “The children had failed to engage consistently in exercise…The mother blamed lockdown but exercise could still be taken in the home or by walking outside.”
They also pointed out that: “The attendance of the family at Weight Watchers had been inconsistent.”
The judge heard that the teenagers lived with their mother. Their father left in 2019, and he visits from time to time.
Judge Ellis said: ‘The case was such an unusual one because the children had clearly had some very good parenting, as they were polite, bright and engaging.’
However, social workers say the children also ‘suffered neglect through poor home conditions and lack of guidance on personal care’.
‘This had resulted in them being bullied at school and in having low self-esteem.
‘The children’s weight had steadily increased even during proceedings.’
One social worker said they ‘believed that she had seen packets of crisps, tubs of ice cream, and fizzy drinks which were not marked as sugar-free’.
“Inappropriate For The State To Interfere”
Meanwhile, the mother of the teenagers insists she told her children about the need to eat healthily.
However the judge said: ‘She accepted that for her to be eating Cheddars and ice creams as snacks was not good role-modelling for the children.’
Judge Ellis ruled: ‘She has failed to instil in the children habits of healthy eating, exercise and good self-care.
‘I think she is deluding herself in the same way as every patient under-reports to their doctor what their alcohol intake is.’
She added: ‘I am aware that this is a serious, life-changing order, and one with which many people may disagree, taking the view that issues of obesity are matters of choice and lifestyle, with which it is inappropriate for the state to interfere.
‘I am satisfied that this order is both necessary and proportionate for both children, in view of the serious and lifelong risks posed to their physical and mental health if nothing is done to change their lifestyle.’
Do you think it’s right or is it a nanny state decision?
Image via Alamy