The rate at which children are taken into care for one highly unusual reason is a hundred times higher in Herefordshire than in the rest of the country, it has been claimed.

Fabricated or induced illness (FII) is described on the NHS website as a rare form of child abuse in which a parent or carer exaggerates or deliberately causes symptoms of illness in their child.

It was formerly known as “Munchausen’s syndrome by proxy” – a form of Munchausen’s syndrome, where a person pretends to be ill or causes themself illness.

Councillor Kevin Tillett told Friday’s full meeting of county councillors that only 0.2 per cent cases of children taken into care nationally, or one in 500, cited FII as a reason.

“Yet in Herefordshire, 60 out of 300 cases have been diagnosed in this way – that’s 20 per cent. This is such an anomaly, that I would implore the leader to look into it.”


Council leader David Hitchiner said: “I did take this up with the director [of children’s services] and he assured that such a figure is just not right.

“We will provide councillors with an update of the FII figure in the county compared with comparator counties.”

One Hereford mother wrote on the Facebook group of A Common Bond, set up to support families in the county who have had children taken into care: “They labelled me [with FII] without any assessments. My own GP was really concerned when I told her and said I didn’t have it. But their label stuck.

“Being branded with FII is so isolating.”

The council’s overall rate at which children are taken into care is also ahead of the national and regional average, though not to the same dramatic extent.

Conservative group leader Coun Jonathan Lester asked: “Can I receive an assurance from the leader of the council, that for those parents who have had their children taken into care, and where the family now wish to be reunited, that this council will make every effort to make this happen?”

Coun Hitchiner replied: “Yes, you can have that assurance.”

He added: “The preferred route is for children to remain with their families, though there instances where that's not in the best interests of the child.”

His report to the meeting noted that the council’s chief executive Paul Walker had undergone an annual performance review, from which a list of seven objectives for the current year had been set.

Top of this is “transformation of children’s services”.

This story was amended at 11am on August 1 to correct the figure for the national incidence of FII.