British couple win nearly £120,000 damages in race discrimination case over adoption

A British couple have won nearly £120,000 in damages after being refused to adopt a child because of their race.

Sandeep and Reena Mander, from Maidenhead, Berkshire, applied to join a register of approved adopters but were refused because of their Indian ancestry.

The couple were told they would have a greater chance of adopting a child from India or Pakistan.

They sued Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Council for discrimination and their case has been backed by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Judge Melissa Clarke ruled: “I find that the defendants directly discriminated against Mr and Mrs Mander on the grounds of race.”

But the judge rejected the Manders’ claim that they had also suffered discrimination under Article 12 of the European Convention of Human Rights and the right to “found a family”.

In her judgement, Judge Clarke said: “I consider that there is clear evidence that Mr and Mrs Mander, who I have found expressed willingness to consider a child of any ethnicity, received less favourable treatment than would a comparable couple of a different ethnicity.

“All of this discloses, in my judgement, what the unknown social worker stated in the very first phone call with Mr Mander, namely that Adopt Berkshire operated a policy of placing adoptive children with parents who come from the ‘same background’, namely race.”

She concluded that Adopt Berkshire’s assumption was a “stereotype” which “gave race a disproportionate importance” in regards to the welfare of children.

Mr and Mrs Mander were awarded general damages of £29,454.42 each and special damages totalling £60,013.43 for the cost of adopting a child overseas.

In a statement, the couple said: “This decision ensures that no matter what race, religion or colour you are, you should be treated equally and assessed for adoption in the same way as any other prospective adopter.

“We believe our experience with Adopt Berkshire was not just an isolated event.

“When we went through the Intercountry adoption process we came across many couples who had similar experiences.

“Let us be clear, a child’s welfare is the most important thing when looking for any prospective adopter.

“However matching cultural values and beliefs is just one of many areas that should be assessed when looking at the suitability of adopters to ensure that child’s welfare.”

The couple added that race should “never be the overriding factor to stop you even being considered”.

They continued: “And certainly, cultural values and beliefs should never be assumed based on an ethnic tick-box, as was our experience.

“We felt there needed to be a change. This is what this case has all been about for us, to ensure discrimination like this doesn’t happen to others wishing to do this wonderful thing called adoption.

“And today’s landmark ruling will ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

A spokesperson from the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, said: “We are very disappointed by the judgement in this case, which we will now take time to consider in full. 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.

“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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