1. ITV Report

Maidenhead Couple awarded almost £120,000 over adoption refusal

A couple from Maidenhead have won nearly £120,000 in damages after being discriminated against by not being allowed to adopt.

Sandeep and Reena Mande saw an application to join a register of approved adopters turned down because of their Indian ancestry, and were told their chances would be improved if they looked to adopt in India or Pakistan.

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

Sandeep and Reena Mande at their home in Maidenhead Credit: ITV Meridian

Judge Melissa Clarke awarded the couple general damages of £29,454.42 each and special damages totalling £60,013.43 for the cost of adopting a child overseas.

The judge also made a declaration that the council "directly discriminated" against the couple in the provision of adoption services on the grounds of race. But she 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".

Sandeep and Reena Mande walking into court Credit: ITV Meridian

"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 judgment, 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.

"I am satisfied that race was the criterion by which the unknown social worker decided not to book an initial visit with Mr and Mrs Mander because the defendants have not satisfied me that there was any other criterion applied by that unknown social worker.<

"All the evidence points to Adopt Berkshire's refusal to progress Mr and Mrs Mander being made on the assumption that it would not be in a putative child's best interest to be matched with prospective adopters who did not share their race.

"This assumption was a stereotype which gave race a disproportionate importance as a factor regarding the welfare of children and it was a move away from such stereotypes and reduce the delays caused by attempts to achieve a perfect or near ethnic match between adoptive parents and adoptive children that Michael Gove, as Secretary of State for Education, introduced the 2011 Action Plan and 2013 amendments to the 2002 Act."

– Judge Melissa Clarke
Sandeep and Reena Mande Credit: ITV Meridian

"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.

"It should never be the overriding factor to stop you even being considered, which is what happened to us. 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."

– Mr and Mrs Mander

“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.”

– A spokesperson from the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead