By Jos Weale
A mum claims a top range kids’ car seat company told her she simply had a ‘clever child’ after she complained her two-year-old undid the buckle – then fell and cut open her head.
Mel Fordham, from Honiton, Devon, claims daughter Everly has been sneakily unclipping herself from her £250 Joie Spin 360 seat on car journeys for months.
The heavily pregnant 29-year-old felt compelled to complain to manufacturers when the tot fell and hit her head while Mel was concentrating on driving.
However the incensed mum-of-four alleges she was simply told she had a ‘clever child who had worked it out’ – and advised to tell her daughter ‘not to do it.’
But Mel, due to give birth again in October, says she’s at her wits end about Everly’s safety – and worries other children could also be at risk.
The child carer has even filmed her little girl – correctly strapped in with crotch pad and tight shoulder straps – demonstrating how easily she can undo the buckle on her pricey car seat, to raise awareness for other parents.
Mel said: “It’s got to the point where she’ll do it ten-plus times in a journey. I can’t get to the end of the drive without her doing it.
“We can’t travel with her in the back of the car unless there’s someone in the back with her who can watch her to make sure she doesn’t undo it or to buckle her up again. And now with the other children back in school it’s not feasible.
“I’m heavily pregnant as well, so we just can’t travel like that with my daughter in danger.
“A crash can happen at any time.
“The thing that worries me the most is that I can’t always know when my daughter has unclipped. We can’t hear her unbuckling it as well because it’s very quiet and she’s sneaky.
“She could have been unclipped for half an hour and I wouldn’t know if I’m in the car on my own with her.
“A parent driving isn’t going to know. Anyone can be in a car crash at any point. And if she came to harm after unclipping herself I would never forgive myself.”
Little Everly first started escaping from the car seat, purchased from Mothercare in Taunton on Jan 14 this year, at aged 18 months, child carer Mel claims.
Mel, who is also mum to Lily, six, and Lacey, five, claims she complained to Mothercare and Joie after Everly fell completely out of her seat at the end of July while the family were travelling home from a day out.
But after expressing her concerns, she says she was unimpressed with Joie’s response, claiming they told her she had a ‘clever child who had worked it out.’
And Mothercare allegedly told her they cannot provide a replacement while the seat is being tested.
Mel, married to Martin Fordham, 42, a farrier, said: “There was a massive bang and she started screaming. I had to pull over. She had a cut on her head and she was bleeding.
“We have a VW T5 van, it’s about three-and-a-half foot for her to fall as well.
“I was really annoyed by it.
“What happens when a child unbuckles and then gets killed? It’s putting children’s safety at risk.
“I went to take it back to the Mothercare store when she banged her head.
“I asked if I could have credit to buy another seat. I was hoping to walk away with another that day.
“They said they couldn’t refund until they had spoken to Joie. They didn’t even come to take look at it.
“I contacted Joie on social media and they basically said that she is very clever and she’s worked out how to do it. They suggested using shoulder pads, and talking to her and explaining it.
“I would have thought, being manufacturers of children’s products, they would understand a bit more about the workings of a child’s mind.”
“I got a bit annoyed off with them, and they said they will have the seat back for testing. I asked if I could have a replacement while it was being tested and they said no.
“Mothercare called me at the end of August and said they are not obliged to provide a replacement.”
Mel says she is now left ‘between a rock and a hard place,’ having tried everything to stop her daughter from escaping the seat.
Mel said: “I can’t take her anywhere without her unclipping, not being heavily pregnant as well. I can’t keep pulling over and getting out of the van to clip her back in.
“I’ve tried everything. I’ve tried telling her and shouting but at the end of the day she finds it funny. It’s a game to her.
“People have said I should explain to her but at that age they can’t comprehend. She doesn’t get it. She doesn’t understand it could mean she could get killed.
“My only option at the moment is to buy another seat while the other is sent for testing, but if the problem is with all the seats then I’m stuck with two £250 car seats with no value.
“I haven’t even asked for a refund. I’m stuck with a £250 car seat I can’t use. I’m due to have our baby in around six or seven weeks’ time – I don’t need this stress.
“The whole point in spending a little bit extra is that you’re buying something you think it top of the market and that is going to last.”
And if no fault is found with her current car seat’s buckle, she fears that many other children with the same seat may be in serious danger of unclipping and then being involved in an accident.
Mel said: “It’s not a strength thing, she isn’t a big, strong child, she’s actually quite small for her age. She shouldn’t have the strength in her arms to be able to unbuckle it herself.
“A one or two year old should not be able to undo it themselves, and even at three or four, they might not understand the dangers.
“And what about children with special needs, who might not have that understanding? But they’re certainly going to have the strength to unclip it.
“It’s not just about me anymore, having seen how many other people it’s affecting. I’ve had loads of parents contacting me saying their child does the same.”
A Joie spokesman said: “We sympathise with Mel. As many parents know, once a child has learnt to unbuckle their car seat it can be difficult to deter them.
“Under UK law, all car seat manufacturers must set the strength of their restraints within strict parameters, between 40-80 newtons.
“These parameters exist to make sure emergency services can release a child quickly from their car seat in the event of an accident.
“At Joie the safety and satisfaction of our customers is paramount and why we’ve been in touch with Mel to organise collection of her car seat to test the buckle and ensure it is working properly within these parameters.
“For more information on how to prevent your child from undoing their harness, please visit RoSPA (The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents).”
A Mothercare spokesman said: “Mothercare is in direct contact with the customer to help resolve the issue.”