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Manders win race adoption case

Judge finds ‘direct discrimination on the grounds of race’

A Berkshire couple who were denied the ability to adopt children because of their race have won their legal battle against Windsor and Maidenhead Borough Council for discrimination. 

The Manders, who are British but of Sikh Indian heritage, were told in 2016 that although they would be suitable adoptive parents, they could not make an application because white couples would be given priority as only white children were available. They were then advised to consider adopting from India.

The couple tried unsuccessfully to get the decision reversed by making a formal complaint to their local council and then to the Local Government Ombudsman. With no positive outcome, the Manders decided to take legal action. In Sandeep & Reena Mander v Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead, Adopt Berkshire, Her Honour Judge Melissa Clarke ruled in favour of their claim that they should not have been barred from applying to join the approved adopters register because of where their parents were born and declared the council's action as "direct discrimination on the grounds of race".

Rebecca Hilsenrath, Chief Executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which funded the case, said:

"The law is very clear. Race and culture are not the only factors when local authorities and adoption agencies match prospective parents and children. We get this wrong at the expense of the children we are trying to help. We should not be treating people differently when they are offering loving homes, just because of where they or their parents come from.  I only hope that today's ruling means that what happened to the Manders will help to build a fair system for all that will secure the best outcomes for young people in our care system."

Georgina Calvert-Lee, Senior Counsel at McAllister Olivarius, the law firm that represented the couple, said:

"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.

"We are extremely pleased that Oxford County Court has agreed with the Manders, ruling that eligible adults cannot be disqualified from joining the adoption process because of 'cultural identity'."

The Equality and Human Rights Commission says that it supported the case due to concerns that the policy applied by the council and its adoption agency amounted to racial discrimination. Its hope is that a successful outcome will prevent other couples being unlawfully discriminated against because of their race.

For the judgment, click here.