Russell-Cooke’s children law team recently won a pivotal case in the Court of Appeal. The appeal clarified whether section 20 of the Children Act 1989 (CA, 1989) can be used for a long-term or permanent placement of children in care.
Section 20 of CA 1989 provides for children to be accommodated in care when they cannot live with their families and can only be used with the parents’ consent. If the parents do not agree to accommodation under section 20 the local authority in question has to apply for a care order. This entails a court process and if a care order is made, this effectively gives the local authority the power to override the wishes of the parents.
In this case, the clients adopted their daughter in 2008. When there were difficulties caring for her at home in her teens, they agreed with the social work team that she should be placed in a foster home under section 20 CA, 1989. However the local authority then sought a care order, which was granted by the court at a final hearing.
The Court of Appeal’s judgment makes it clear that section 20 may be used for a long-term placement where the parents had agreed and co-operated with the social work team.
Head of children law team Samantha Little represented the clients pro bono and instructed Coram Chambers’ Alison Easton.
Partner Samantha Little said: “The Court of Appeal has given a clear judgment about the long-term use of section 20. We hope that this case may benefit others who are faced with similar difficulties, particularly in cases of adoption disruption and where children with a high level of need require long-term foster or residential care. While each family and each situation is unique and must be considered individually, we hope that in the future families can be spared the stress and additional pressure of unwanted court proceedings and that section 20 will be considered first of all.”
The judgment is available to read here.