A Chronology of Significant Events

1996 – A programme of Holding Therapy, later to become one of the largest and most systematic in the world, is founded in the North of England by a foster carer and her social worker

2002 – A local university is paid £31,000 to conduct a study of the Holding Therapy within the programme

2006 – The British Association of Adoption and Fostering condemns Attachment/Holding therapy and effectively call for it to be banned in Position Statement 4  (see links)

2006 – An American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (APSAC) report condemns Holding Therapy

2006 – The company that manages the programme is bought by a much larger (foreign) parent company. The Holding Therapy itself remains restricted to the 11 attachment homes within the original programme

8.6.09 – Findings from the university study of Holding Therapy within the programme are finally published in the British Journal of Social Work

7.9.10 – Lancashire Police begin an inquiry into allegations by a professional from an independent agency that the therapy in the programme constitutes abuse, that no meaningful consent is obtained and that the children’s human rights are being breached

5.4.11 – A young man writes his first-hand account of the Holding Therapy he experienced within this programme on a weekly basis between the ages of 11 – 13. The placement was funded by his Local Authority at a cost of £19,857.50 per quarter.


19.4.11 – The young man  is granted  full legal aid in order to pursue a personal injury claim against the programme.  Foot Anstey, a firm of solicitors with expertise in class action lawsuits, begins investigating the claim. A specialist barrister, Robin Tolson QC, is consulted.

1.5.11 – Professor Jean Mercer publishes her rejoinder to the British Journal of Social Work article, heavily criticising its methods and raising significant concerns about the practice of Holding Therapy.


27.8.11 (5.47pm)– Ben Goldacre of the Guardian becomes the first mainstream journalist to raise concern and awareness of Holding Therapy in the UK through his Twitter account. He provides a link to Invisible England.

12.9.11 – Professor Edzard Ernst is interviewed by Invisible England  – he describes the Holding Therapy used in the programme as unproven, expensive (public money is used), dangerous and frightening. He states that he feels the only way forward is to inform the public.

14.11.11 – Lancashire Police interview the survivor of Holding Therapy and begin a criminal investigation into the  programme. It is understood that 40 children (almost all Looked After by Local Authorities) continue to be subjected to this treatment on a weekly basis for no less than 2 years.

7.6.12 – The young man’s Local Authority respond to a precisely worded, time-specific Freedom of Information request regarding their funding of children and young people within the programme. Despite paying £19,857.50 per quarter for their Looked After Child’s treatment when he was between the ages of 11-13 they state that –

“Our systems do not record in the level of detail needed to answer the request but from liaising with managers within the Children & Young People Directorate, to the best of their knowledge we have not funded the therapy you refer to”.

19.7.12   Lancashire Police meet with the Crown Prosecution Service. They conclude that there is insufficient evidence to proceed with a criminal prosecution. They state that a key factor in this decision was that the young man’s Local Authority “knew and understood the nature of the therapy” and therefore, it is implied, gave meaningful consent to the treatment being used. The response to the FOI request described above indicates the Local Authority may disagree with this conclusion.

1 Comment

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One response to “A Chronology of Significant Events

  1. avalon111

    So let’s be clear here. Lancashire Police and the CPS say there isn’t enough evidence and that the victim’s Local Authority gave meaningful consent to the treatment being used (i.e. gave consent for children to be assaulted).

    But at the same time the Local Authority denies it ever funded the therapy in the first place.

    Bit of a discrepancy there. From the looks of it the Police/CPS decision, if obtained in writing, would be sufficient evidence for a civil case to be mounted against the Local Authority for the trauma and psychological injuries sustained. And the Police Officers can be summonsed to present the evidence they obtained to come to the conclusion they did.

    Additionally the CPS/Police could be sued for damages by the victims as they appear to be complicit in allowing it to continue, having ascertained that the Local Authority “knew and understood the nature of the therapy”.

    Certainly as a minimum the discrepancy between the Police conclusion and the LA’s response to the Freedom of Information request should be answered. A complaint to the Force would be best as the LA answer distinctly makes it clear that the conclusion made by the CPS appears to have been made from a poor investigation. How did the Police/CPS determine the Local Authority “knew and understood the nature of the therapy” when the LA deny ever funding it?

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