Family torn apart after false sex abuse claims

One call to social services was enough to land a Swedish couple behind bars and have their kids taken away for more than two months after an innocent situation was misinterpreted as sexual abuse.

”We went from a wonderful life to hell. Everything was turned upside down through one single phonecall,” said the mother, Jennie, to newspaper Aftonbladet.

In September last year Swedish parents Jennie and Thomas life fell crashing down when a phone call from Jennie’s sister to the social services meant their two daughters, 3 and 6, were taken info protective custody.

On weekends, the two girls usually came running into their parents bedroom in the morning and jumped into their bed.

While romping around with their parents, the older girl had accidentally touched her father’s penis on two occasions. Both times Thomas had quickly removed her hand and no more was thought of it.

Later, Jennie told her sister about the incident, sharing it as as an example of an embarrassing situation that parents can find themselves in.

But her sister misunderstood. And phoned social services.

The following day, the couple recived a call from the local authorities.

Without corroborating the story with anyone else close to the children, the authorities had chosen to place the children in protective custody with immediate effect.

”I went into some sort of shock, I thought something had happened to the girls. I couldn’t even understand what the man was telling me, because it seemed so clear that something must have happened,” Thomas told Sveriges Television’s (SVT) investigative journalism show Uppdrag Granskning.

Thomas and Jennie were called to a meeting with social services. There they recieved the next shock. They were being investigated for sexually abusing their children.

As neither parent had any previous history with either police or social services, they hoped to be able to clear up the situation quickly.

But instead of bringing their kids back home, they were sent to pack up some clothes and other items that the kids might need.

They weren’t told where their children were or how they were doing.

”That was the hardest bit, the feeling of powerlessness. That someone can just take your child, it was bloody awful,” said Thomas.

After the weekend, Thomas was remanded into custody on the suspicion of sexually abusing his daughters and soon after Jennie spent a night in jail as well.

A month later they were charged. After two days of deliberation, the court ruled that there was no substance to the allegations and the parents were cleared.

But the story wasn’t over because the social services still believed that Thomas was a paedophile.

They wrote that ”the father has exposed his daughter to a limitless sexual behaviour” and that the authority deemed ”the father to have exploited the situation for his own sexual needs”, according to SVT.

”I was livid. It was so offensive. So terribly demeaning,” Thomas said to SVT.

Not until the administrative court had also ruled in favour of the parents, did the authorities release the children back to their parents.

By then they had been in protective custody for 68 days. The younger girl no longer recognised her father. The older had acquired a different dialect.

When they were all together again the next shock erupted.

The prosecutor had found a short video clip from a holiday on the Baltic island of Öland, where the children were tickling each other after swimming naked in the sea.

The prosecutor thought that the clip, filmed by Jennie, was pornographic.

It wasn’t until after the district court had discounted these allegation as well and the Svea Court of Appeals (Hovrätten) finally cleared them of all abuse charges, a full year after the allegations were initially made, that the family could finally relax.

The couple have had no apologies from the local authorities after their ordeal.

”I would like someone responsible on the local council to say they regretted what had happened. Despite everything that has happened, it would help a little,” said Thomas to SVT.

The local politician who made the decision that the children would be taken away has called it ”unfortunate” that Thomas was singled out as a paedophile but none of the civil servants – nor their superiors- wanted to comment on the matter on the SVT show.

Both Jennie and Thomas are still questioning how one single call can put a whole family in a such a nightmare situation.

”No other healthy family should have to go through this. It must be something wrong with the system if it can go this far,” Thomas told SVT.

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Unions propose profit cap on welfare business

The Swedish Trade Union Confederation (LO) has proposed a new type of company that would limit profits made in the tax-funded welfare sector, in a move that goes against the line of their traditional political ally, the opposition Social Democrat Party.

Unions propose profit cap on welfare business

“Working for the public good and limiting how much profit is taken out should be fundamental principles,” LO vice-chair Tobias Baudin and leaders in 14 of its member unions wrote in an op-ed published on Tuesday in the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.

In order to implement the profit cap, the authors suggest creating a new type of company which they dub samhällsbolag (‘community companies’).

The new companies would be based on a corporate structure that includes conditions closely tying profits to interest current rates.

Currently, there are about 50 such companies, referred to as SVB firms, an abbreviation stemming from särskild vinstutdelningsbegränsning (special profit limitations’), the Swedish term describing their built-in cap on profits.

In October, a parliamentary motion submitted by members of the Green Party also referenced SVB companies as a potential solution to the debate regarding profits in the welfare sector.

The union representatives also proposed a new council or state agency with the mandate to survey activities in the welfare sector.

“Tax money meant to finance the citizens’ schools, health care and social services are ending up in private pockets,” they wrote.

“Nowadays, it is completely permissible to allow private companies to make a profit at the expense of welfare quality.”

Creating a new type of company based on the SVB form proved unpopular with private welfare providers.

“There are two things in the LO proposal that both surprise and upset me. Firstly, the model they propose has already been tested but today there are no welfare providers run in that manner,” Håkan Tenelius at the Association of Private Care Providers (Vårdföretagarna), which represents employers, told the TT news agency.

“In practice, it is impossible to run a business in the long term with that type of model.”

He also thinks the profit-cap means tax payers will have to invest more than they do today as a reform would scare off potential investors.

“It would hamper new investments which are sorely needed. Who, apart from the tax payers, would want to pump in more cash to run a business that is so forcefully restricted?” Tenelius asked.

Political reactions to the proposal, which would reverse some aspect of the centre-right government health care and social services reforms, were mixed.

“It falls in line with what we have proposed,” noted Left Party leader Jonas Sjöstedt.

“Profit-seeking companies should not run welfare services.”

He classified the LO idea as more forceful than proposed reforms from the Social Democrats, who are the government’s main opposition in parliament and have historically been allied to the union movement.

New party leader Stefan Löfven’s refusal to tackle profits in the welfare sector head-on last year drew some internal criticism, partly from the party’s student wing who called it “naive”.

“It’s quite a big difference in that LO wants to remove the profit aspect, it’s a much sharper proposal than the one from the Social Democrats,” Left Party leader Sjöstedt told TT.

The LO proposal, however, immediately faced flack from business associations.

“It is highly regrettable that LO chooses a regulation line that gets in the way of business and risks leading to job losses,” Urban Bäckström, CEO of the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise (Svenskt Näringsliv), said in a statement.

It branded the LO proposal “an attack on business”.

“More than 10,0000 private companies and 100,000 employees could be affected be the proposals that LO have put forward.”

TT/The Local/at

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