From The Sunday Express, 21 June 2015. Story by Caroline Wheeler, political editor.
HUNDREDS of parents whose children suffer from a crippling illness that leaves them permanently exhausted have been falsely accused of child abuse.
Charities have helped hundreds of families of children with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or ME, who have been investigated on suspicion of a rare form of child abuse known as Fabricated or Induced Illness (FII).
FII, also known as Munchausen’s Syndrome by proxy or Factitious Disorder, occurs when a parent or carer exaggerates or deliberately causes the symptoms of a child’s illness.
It affects fewer than 50 people a year. Yet hundreds of families of the estimated 25,000 children with ME have been probed by social services looking into whether they suffer from FII.
The Association of Young People with ME (AYME) has helped many parents under suspicion, even going to court, with at least two families a week asking for help after social services become involved in their child’s case.
None of the parents has been found to have FII.
AYME chief executive Mary-Jane Willows said: “ME can take years to diagnose and when families have been dealing with a very poorly child for a long time, the people who are supposed to help seemingly turn against them.
“It is so devastating for the family. They’re either accused of FII or face veiled threats to call in social services.”
Jane Colby, executive director of the charity Tymes Trust which has helped 143 families accused of FII over the past decade, said: “It is an absolute scandal that nothing has been done to address this issue.”
ME charities want the Education Department to alert social workers and last year met the Government’s chief social worker for children and families, Isabelle Trowler, to discuss the problem.
Consultant paediatrician Dr Esther Crawley, AYME’s lead medical adviser, said: “ME is really common and runs in families. Having it does not mean a child protection case.”
The Education Department declined to comment.