Maidenhead couple criticise council over £439k adoption legal battle

A Maidenhead couple has hit out at the Royal Borough over a legal discrimination battle which cost more than £400,000 in taxpayers’ money.

Sandeep and Reena Mander took legal action against the Royal Borough and Adopt Berkshire after the couple saw their attempts to join the adoption register blocked.

The pair claimed their application was rejected due to their Indian heritage, despite both being British nationals since birth and identifying as British.

They took their discrimination case to Oxford County Court and in December 2019 a judge ruled that the pair had been discriminated against on the grounds of race.

A Freedom of Information Request (FOI), published on November 9, has now revealed the legal battle cost the defendants £439.539.18, including almost £140,000 in damages.

Sandeep, of Milverton Close, told the Advertiser: “I just think it’s a complete waste of money to be honest. Particularly in this time when the council’s financials aren’t up to scratch.

“This could’ve been sorted out very easily right from the start but it was the arrogance that got in the way to keep going.”

The married couple had expressed a desire to adopt a child of any race with a preference for a youngster under the age of three.

But their court case heard how after the couple saw their application to join the adoption register deferred, they received a letter stating they should try adopting a child from India or Pakistan.

Sandeep added: “I was born in Taplow, raised in Maidenhead, and went to Roman Catholic school but I couldn’t tick any other box apart from Indian on the ethnic origin application form.”

He added: “As soon as they see that they said your culture can’t be matched to any of the children that we have.

“My wife went to a Roman Catholic school in Leamington Spa but they didn’t listen to any of that. They just take the colour of your skin and assume your culture is different.”

The couple, who now have an adopted son, Dylan, from the USA, said they are still awaiting an apology from the borough.

“One thing that really frustrated us was after we won our case the response from the local authority said they were very disappointed and never apologised,” Sandeep added.

“It just amazed us they were disappointed in the result and they should’ve come out and said they were wrong and sorry for it.”

A Royal Borough spokesperson said: "As we made clear at the conclusion of the case in December 2019, we have reviewed our policies to ensure they are fit for purpose and are confident that we do not exclude prospective adopters on the grounds of ethnicity.

"We always put the best interests of the children at the heart of any adoption decisions and are committed to best practice in our provision of adoption services."

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