A Sikh couple who were denied to adopt white children due to their race, won the legal battle against a local council for discrimination. The Berkshire residents, Sandeep and Reena Mander, were forced to adopt from overseas after the Windsor and Maidenhead Borough Council rejected their application saying white couples would be given priority since only white British pre-school children were available. The local council even went ahead to advise the couple to consider adopting from India.
The couple lodged a formal complaint to the local council to get the decision reversed but met with failure. They moved to the local government ombudsman and even got a letter of support from Theresa May, their local MP and the then Home Secretary. But with no positive outcome, the couple decided to take legal action with the help of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
On December 6, Judge Melissa Clarke of Oxford County court ruled the case in the couple’s favour and ordered the council to pay general damage of £29,454.42 to each of them. According to the judgement, the couple should not have been barred from applying to join the approved adopters’ register because of their origins and declared the council’s action as “direct discrimination on the grounds of race”. “'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,” said the Manders in a statement.
After the ruling, Rebecca Hilsenrath, Chief Executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said that race and culture are not the only factors when local authorities and adoption agencies match prospective parents and children. “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,” she said. Georgina Calvert-Lee, Senior Counsel at McAllister Olivarius, the law firm that represented the couple, said that the judgment is a victory for all British children who need loving adoptive homes, and for all the eligible, loving adoptive British families hoping to welcome them into their lives.