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Vulnerable children must come first in adoption row

St Margaret's Children and Family Care Society has been finding homes for vulnerable children since 1955.

It righteously places hundreds of children in secure and safe environments year after year. But charities are running on extremely tight budgets due to the poor economic climate and if St Margaret's loses its tax benefits, as you report, this might be the final nail in the coffin ("Adoption agency in gay row", The Herald, January 24).

The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) says the agency does not provide a public benefit to society. What an irrational decision. Providing a safe, secure and caring environment to vulnerable children should be at the top of the list in relation to what is, and what is not, a public benefit.

According to the OSCR: "The charity's (adoption agency) preferred criteria prioritise couples who have been married for at least two years: marriage is not available to same-sex couples and this constitutes direct discrimination."

If the OSCR reviews the statistics on couples who marry, compared to couples who cohabit, it will discover that married couples have a far greater chance of committing to each other long term; in other words, a greater chance of stability and security for the child up for adoption.

Furthermore, the courts have asserted numerous times that the welfare of the child is the paramount consideration when deciding the future of the child. It seems to me the National Secular Society is playing politics with Glasgow's vulnerable children.

There would perhaps be a legitimate argument if St Margaret's adoption agency had the monopoly on adopting children in Glasgow but this is far from the truth. There is an abundance of adoption agencies happy to accept couples as adoptive parents, regardless of whether they are married or not, and regardless of how long they have been together.

Scotland, and particularly Glasgow, should welcome as many voluntary charities as possibly.

At a time when multinational businesses such as Amazon and Starbucks seem to be paying minimal tax, tax exemptions might be removed from St Margaret's adoption agency. There is something seriously wrong in society when a multinational may be paying less tax than an institution that seeks to find homes for children who are crying out for help.

Robert Samuel Mcgregor,

4 Kingsburn Drive, Rutherglen.

The threat by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) to remove the charitable status of St Margaret's Children and Family Care Society is a disgraceful abuse of regulatory power which ignores the clear provisions of the Equality Act.

Section 193 of the Act permits charities to restrict their services in accordance with their constitution and that is all that St Margaret's was doing. The ruling by OSCR that St Margaret's cannot be a charity if it restricts its services in accordance with s193 is a completely circular argument because only a charity can take advantage of s193.

Parliament passed the Equality Act including s193 and only Parliament has the right to change the Act, not an unelected bureaucracy like OSCR. By its decision OSCR has in effect subverted the clear intentions of Parliament as expressed in s193 and it is to be hoped the Scottish Government will offer financial support to St Margaret's in the legal fight it now faces.

Neil Addison,

National director, Thomas More Legal Centre, Palmyra Chambers, 46 Legh Street,

Warrington.

With regard to your report on the charity regulator's decision on the St Margaret's adoption agency case, the National Secular Society fully supports this valuable charity and wants it to do even better for children by recruiting prospective parents from same-sex couples.

In doing so, it would then be matching another Catholic adoption charity, the St Andrew's Children's Society in Edinburgh, which has adapted to equality law like many others in England and recruits as prospective parents same-sex couples living together in a committed and enduring relationship.

The majority of Catholic adoption charities, with an income derived in the most part from public funds, now fully comply with the law. We hope St Margaret's will do so too.

Alistair McBay,

National Secular Society,

5 Atholl Crescent, Edinburgh.

We write as a (non-Catholic) couple assessed for adoption by St Margaret's Children and Family Care Society. St Margaret's does a fantastic job of placing children who have experienced significant trauma early in life and provide post- adoption support for the families into which they come. Local authorities have already tried to place these children with a wide pool of applicants, regardless of sexual orientation.

The organisation has a number of criteria to meet the highly specialised needs of such children, such as requiring one partner to give up work for a year. Its belief that several years of marriage instils a greater sense of permanence to children who particularly need this is based on research rather than ideology and fits into this sincerely held ethic.

A victory for the National Secular Society in this case will have nothing to do with gay rights, but will mean an end to these much-needed services and it is children and families who will lose out.

Name and address withheld to protect the identity of the children.

Contextual targeting label: 
Families

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