BBC baby show 'unethical' says expert

STEVE DOWNES A Norfolk child psychology expert labelled the BBC “unethical” last night after revealing he had rejected an offer to work on a controversial reality TV show which puts babies in the hands of teenage couples.

STEVE DOWNES

A Norfolk child psychology expert labelled the BBC “unethical” last night after revealing he had rejected an offer to work on a controversial reality TV show which puts babies in the hands of teenage couples.

Darren Spooner turned down the advances of producers from BBC3's The Baby Borrowers, which was screened for the first time last night.

The revelation came as the latest results of an EDP web vote on whether the corporation should cancel the controversial show were in the balance - with 56pc saying “yes” and 44pc “no”.

Mr Spooner, who works at St Giles Clinic in Norwich, said: “The producers of this show contacted me last year to ask if I would be interested in taking part.

“They were asking if I could be involved in conducting psychological assessments of the various surrogate parents. They also wanted some assessment of the relationship between the child and their own parents and to offer general support on tap.

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“I point blank refused. A number of my colleagues have turned down a similar request. It gives me great concern. Professional nannies know nothing about theories of attachment.

“You just don't take babies away from carers and give them to people they don't know. It's too dangerous. I can't imagine any professional in the country would want to be involved.”

The chartered clinical psychologist added: “From the outset the show seemed to me very unethical, and professionally I wouldn't want to be involved with an organisation doing such a thing.

“I was amazed they would conduct such a study. It's so bizarre and uninformed. My concern is about the impact specifically on the children being wrenched away from their families and sent somewhere else.”

The BBC is believed to have approached a number of other clinical psychologists across Norfolk in the run-up to the series, which sees 25 children aged six months to 14 handed over to inexperienced teenage couples, with some disastrous results.

The show was condemned by Norfolk's local safeguarding children board, which called for it to be cancelled after being refused access to the filming on an edge-of-Norwich estate.

Eight of Norfolk and Waveney's nine MPs have also demanded the show be pulled.

But in a reply to north Norfolk MP Norman Lamb, BBC deputy director general Mark Byford said: “The safety of the children was of paramount importance to everyone involved with the production.”

He added: “For your information, filming on the programme finished without incident.”

Last night, the first episode was screened, showing the couples moving into their houses and starting work locally - while the girls learnt to cope with wearing a two-stone “empathy belly”.

T On this website, we asked you whether the BBC should pull the plug on The Baby Borrowers. The vote has narrowed over the weekend, with 306 (56pc) saying yes, it should be scrapped, and 245 (44pc) saying no, keep it on. In a previous vote, people were asked whether they would let their baby appear on a TV reality show. A massive 84pc said no, with 10pc voting “yes, for the money” and 6pc “yes, for fun”.