Children In Law
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Breastfeeding mother versus gay couple

Breastfeeding mother versus gay couple | Children In Law |
I think that this case has probably been in the news, or is about to be.
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legal issues about children in the uk
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Understanding parental alienation and what you can do about it Tickets, Wed 24 Feb 2021 at 17:30

Understanding parental alienation and what you can do about it Tickets, Wed 24 Feb 2021 at 17:30 | Children In Law |
Eventbrite - Stowe Family Law presents Understanding parental alienation and what you can do about it - Wednesday, 24 February 2021 - Find event and ticket information.
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Family courts rule to inoculate children when parents disagree on the vaccination of their children | News | Garden Court Chambers | Leading Barristers located in London, UK

Family courts rule to inoculate children when parents disagree on the vaccination of their children | News | Garden Court Chambers | Leading Barristers located in London, UK | Children In Law |
Blog post by Luke McLean of the Garden Court Chambers Family Team.
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I found one bruise — and they took my baby away | News | The Sunday Times

I found one bruise — and they took my baby away | News | The Sunday Times | Children In Law |
Holly Kobayashi was in bed, breastfeeding her eight-day-old son, when she noticed a little bruise on his left arm. It was tiny, around the size of a 5p piece, but it was about to change their lives.
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Dictionary of Private Children Law is "an invaluable tool for anyone needing a pithy summary of the relevant law" | Class Legal

Dictionary of Private Children Law is "an invaluable tool for anyone needing a pithy summary of the relevant law" | Class Legal | Children In Law |
The latest edition to our Class Legal library is the result of a 'lockdown project' initiated by Zoe Saunders (Barrister and Mediator at St John's Chambers), and in collaboration with contributing author of Dictionary of Financial Remedies, HHJ Edward Hess. Together they have teamed up with experts Piers Pressdee QC (Barrister, 4PB) and Dr Rob George (Barrister, Harcourt Chambers) to bring Dictionary of Private Children Law, a unique reference guide to the key concepts, cases and practice of private children law. The foreword for this first edition has been written by The Rt Hon Lord Justice Baker. I am delighted to have been asked to write a short Foreword to the first edition of this excellent new work. Following the success of the Dictionary of Financial Remedies, many of us have been urging Edward Hess to turn his attention to the private law relating to children. Once again, he has assembled a crack team of assistants, all of whom are well known as highly-qualified specialists in this area. Having in the dim and distant past co-written two books with one of these distinguished authors, I can assure readers that every entry has been rigorously checked, including the footnotes. This volume is not intended to be a substitute for the many practitioner’s books, nor for the compendious sources of materials such as the Family Court Practice. But its style and format make it an invaluable tool for anyone needing a pithy summary of the relevant law. The number of entries illustrates the astonishingly wide range of issues that arise in private children law. On behalf of the readers of this work, I have road tested the dictionary by reference to a random list of topics and have found it to be succinct, clear and informative. Writing as I do in the middle of the third lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic, it seems unlikely that we will all return to court in the near future. When we do, we will find the conveniently-designed dictionary slips easily into our briefcases. Unlike many law books, its light weight will not increase the risk of back injury. And for as long as we continue to endure remote hearings, I confidently expect to see advocates and indeed judges casting a surreptitious glance at the dictionary to refresh their memories of the multitude of legal principles which arise in these cases. But a volume on private children law in this country needs to address a wider audience than the professionals working in the court system. As is well known, the restrictions on public funding introduced by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 has led to a very significant increase in the number of litigants in person in private children cases. Reading the documents which unrepresented parties file in such cases, it is only too clear how daunting and difficult many of them find the ordeal of coming to terms with the processes of the family court. I hope litigants in person will find this volume to be an accessible and helpful introduction to guide them through the thickets of the legal forest. The dictionary format and clever use of cross-references will be of particular help to the litigant who may initially be bewildered by the sheer volume and complexity of law in this field. The law relating to children changes rapidly. It is therefore reassuring to know that the authors intend that this work should be updated annually so that everyone can keep up to speed with legal developments. I congratulate Judge Hess and his colleagues on this invaluable addition to the family law library. The Dictionary of Private Children Law is available to pre-order as a hard copy (A4, paperback) or eBook (delivered via our bespoke eReader) for just £60 (full published price from 1st March is £65). The book can be purchased as a print and digital bundle for £85 or as part of a bundle with its sister publication, Dictionary of Financial Remedies for £100 (saving you £20). PRE-ORDER TODAY To be published March 2021 | Free P&P
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Family Law Week: R (Children: Control of Court Documents) [2021] EWCA Civ 162

Home > Judgments R (Children: Control of Court Documents) [2021] EWCA Civ 162 An appeal in which the court deals with “the Family Court's powers to control the distribution of sensitive material and the principles on which such powers should be exercised.” [11] ___ This appeal flowed from a decision made by the trial Judge not to allow the appellant ("R") to have a physical copy of his judgment or the written submissions presented to the court following a fact – finding hearing, at the conclusion of which he was found to be a "predatory paedophile" who had raped one of the subject children who was also his sister. Instead, the trial Judge granted permission for R to be provided with a summary of the court's findings and a redacted version of the judgment from which explicit sexual references were to be removed. By the time of that judgment being delivered, R was also serving a lengthy prison sentence for a number of offences including sexual offences against a child and the distribution of pornographic images, including images of the sexual assault he had committed. It was argued on R's behalf that he had "an absolute right to access the papers in the case" and that the court lacked the power to deny him access to those papers once the proceedings came to an end, his role as an intervener having come to an end upon the conclusion of the fact – finding hearing. In refusing R's request, the trial Judge said the following by way of clarification at [18] of his judgment: "In any care proceedings, there is obviously a legitimate public interest in protecting the children, including from the details of what has occurred with them becoming widely known or shared. Of course, in this case [the children] have a right to privacy arising from their Article 8 rights; and I am satisfied that their Article 3 rights may also be engaged if the contents of the full fact finding judgment were to be released and to be shared for sexual gratification. I consider that that would amount to degrading treatment." The trial Judge also went on to discount other arguments put forward on R's behalf in attempt to bolster the request, including the suggestion that R's cognitive difficulties meant that he required a copy of the full judgment to enable him to "fully understand it", that he would need this in the event he sought to appeal the decision, that he might need to present the judgment to the Parole Board in due course and already had various documents in his possession which related to his criminal proceedings. None of these were deemed to outweigh the other considerations which had prompted the Judge's decision to refuse to allow him to be provided with the documents sought, including the risk that he could use them for his own continued gratification given the references they contained to the sexual acts of which he had been found guilty and / or to disseminate them to other paedophiles. R appealed this decision on two grounds, namely: 1. The court was wrong in holding that it had the power or jurisdiction to prohibit the disclosure of the full fact-finding judgment and/or the written submissions of each party to R and/or to prohibit his solicitors from disclosing a copy of the full judgment and/or submissions to him. 2. In the event it is held that the court does have the power to make the orders, the decisions were wrong in that; - a. The Judge gave too much weight to the perceived risks of unlawful dissemination of the material by R in circumstances where there was scant evidence that R had disseminated or attempted to disseminate highly sensitive and/or sexually explicit material which is in his possession (in custody) from the criminal proceedings and, b. The Judge gave too little weight to R's right and/or future need to have access to the material to inform any further judicial or quasi-judicial process concerning him, whether in family proceedings or relating to his status as a serving prisoner. The leading judgment in the appeal was delivered by Lord Justice Peter Jackson ("The Judge") who made it plain that he had granted permission on the basis of the second limb only as doing so provided an opportunity to consider the court's powers where issues arise regarding the disclosure of sensitive material. He also emphasised the distinction between cases relating to withholding documents where a court deems this necessary and achievable without denying access to a fair trial, and this case in which what was proposed was "controlling the physical possession of documents from an individual, though not from his lawyers" [20] He noted that when reaching his decision, the trial Judge had applied the rigorous considerations more typically applied when considering whether to withhold documents in full and having done so, had "…conducted a conspicuously careful balancing exercise" before concluding that "…his conclusion was not only beyond criticism but, in my view, sound." He also deemed what was permitted to be provided to R sufficient to ensure that he had "everything he needs to understand the Judge's decision". [22] The appeal was refused accordingly. The Judge also went on to make some further points of note that should be borne in mind for anyone facing a similar situation including that: a) Issues of this kind are likely to only arise in "the gravest of cases" and that reference should be made to the analysis of Baroness Hale in Re A (A Child) (Family Proceedings: Disclosure of Information) [2012] UKSC 60; [2012] 2 AC 66, at [31 – 32] which deals with the questions to be considered when it is argued that a subject's rights under Article 3 have been contravened. [24] b) A person does not "own" documents such as a position statement or written submissions filed on their behalf "any more than he owns counsel's oral submissions to the court." [25] c) It cannot be argued that a court's power to make decisions with respect to documents filed during the course of proceedings comes to an end when the proceedings conclude as is demonstrated by the fact that there are rules, such as rule 12.75 and PD12G, which will clearly have an impact beyond the lifetime of the proceedings to which the decision relates. [26] d) A lawyer's overriding duty is always to the court and not the client such that where they are not permitted by the court to release a document, or parts thereof, to a client they are released from their otherwise competing duty to them. Case Summary by Lucinda Wicks, Barrister, Coram Chambers For full Case Summary please see BAILII
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England's children's social care review must have credibility

England's children's social care review must have credibility | Children In Law |
Published by Professional Social Work magazine, 16 February, 2021 The head of what will probably become known as the ’MacAlister Review’ has sought to parry two wide-spread concerns that he is not independent of government and that he does not have the experience or expertise to lead such a major fundamental "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunity to re-set and re-shape social care services for children and families. He also seeks to claim parity of credibility with those who have been paid to work within children’s social care or received grants to research the nature and impact of services. His experience is limited to a very short career as a teacher and then as an entrepreneur setting up a social work training company. A bit of personal background… I grew up on a council housing estate within a strong and caring community but where near neighbours had children taken into care, where some had lives immersed in drug peddling and addiction, and which later had a moment of national fame as the first neighbourhood to have an area curfew imposed on children and young people who had to be indoors by 9pm. I now have over 50 years experience of working within children’s social work and children’s social services, including 12 years of direct face-to-face work as a social worker, group worker, and neighbourhood youth worker alongside children, young people and their families. Whilst working as a social services frontline team manager I completed a PhD based on getting adolescents to tell me what they thought about their social workers. As a social services director for 14 years every eight weeks or so I, along with senior councillors, would meet in the evening and at weekends, and listen and talk with, between about 20-100 children in care at events and gatherings arranged by our children’s rights officer, getting to know 30-40 of the children well over time. The research I undertook as a social work professor for eight years included, for example, meeting in their homes with young people and parents involved with a ‘troubled families’ programme to gather their experiences and views, and meeting frontline practitioners and managers to find out and report how serious case reviews impacted on them. I have also chaired a local safeguarding children board for a major city and between 2010 and 2016 spent two days each month for about two years in each of five local authority areas working with them on how to improve their poorly rated services for children. In all of these roles listening to children and families, and staying close to frontline practitioners, has been fundamental and crucial to shaping my understanding and being grounded. I am NOT pitching to undertake the review! Indeed, the review should not be within the remit or realm of any single individual. So why do I refer to my experience? It is because it is not untypical of those whose working lives have been embedded in working alongside children and families. There are those who deserve tremendous recognition and credit for year-on-year staying immersed as practitioners and frontline managers in the pain and distress of children and families in crisis, which is increasing amongst the deprivation and poverty that has intensified by over the past ten years. And for many of those in children’s social care management, education and research their roots are still set within their practice experience and its value base. Yes, we get paid for our work, but have not and do not see funding and influence from international accountancy firms and from hedge funds and investment bankers with wealth sheltered in tax havens as welcome in children’s social care, with their anticipation that this might be a route to more money-making. The same cannot be said for Frontline, the fast-track graduate training programme founded by Josh MacAlister, from which he has stepped down to lead the review. We also may have a fleeting thought questioning whether those government advisors, such as Martin Narey, Julian Le Grand and now MacAlister, with no track record of working alongside children and families in children’s social care, are best placed to be the shapers of the future and the heralds of a brave new world. And we may look with a little side-ways glance as they cast themselves in the role of gathering, reporting and presenting the expertise and wisdom of those who have personal experience of children’s social care. It is absolutely awful that almost a thousand people with expertise and wisdom based on being care experienced have been turned down when they offered and sought to contribute to the review. How crass that MacAlister and the civil servants working beside him had not anticipated the distress which has been caused and the anger this rejection has generated. Their lack of understanding, sensitivity and experience has already been exposed. It would be timely, therefore, for there to be some quick re-thinking about how the review is to be conducted and led so that it has credibility among those with personal and professional experience. There is also an urgency for its independence from the government, which has been the source of many of the difficulties for children and families over the past ten years, to be strengthened. At the very least it should be a cross-party commissioned review which is widely recognised as being independently undertaken by those with recognised relevant experience and expertise, and with a clear distancing from political control and influence. Read PSW's analysis of the children's social care review here Ray Jones is emeritus professor of social work at Kingston University and St George's, University of London This article is published by Professional Social work magazine which provides a platform for a range of perspectives across the social work sector. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the British Association of Social Workers
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A Borough Council v E (Unavailability of Regulated Placement) [2021] EWHC 183 (Fam) (05 February 2021)

A Borough Council v E (Unavailability of Regulated Placement) [2021] EWHC 183 (Fam) (05 February 2021) | Children In Law |
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A & B (Children) (deaf parent - assessment and practice) [2021] EWFC 10 (09 February 2021)

A & B (Children) (deaf parent - assessment and practice) [2021] EWFC 10 (09 February 2021) | Children In Law |
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Family Law Week: 'Single parents more likely to experience problem debt and live in persistent poverty'

Home > News 'Single parents more likely to experience problem debt and live in persistent poverty' New report from Gingerbread Gingerbread, the charity for single parent families, and StepChange, the UK's leading debt charity, have published a new report - The Single Parent Debt Trap - which shows the UK's 2 million single parents are more likely than any other sector of society to be living with problem debt. Eighty-two per cent of single parents said that not having enough income to meet living costs meant they were forced to borrow money and ended up in debt. The research also showed that single parents were unable to work their way out of debt. Counter-intuitively, those who worked full-time hours were more likely to be in problem debt, with increased childcare costs being the main reason for this. Single parents were more likely to use credit to pay for childcare the more hours they worked: 25 per cent of those working full-time (35 hours or more) paid for childcare by using credit, compared to 17 per cent of those working part-time (16-24 hours). Victoria Benson, Chief Executive of Gingerbread said: "Before the pandemic around 70 per cent of single parents were in work but this didn't protect them or their children from poverty. It's shocking that in 2021 so many are forced to go hungry in order to repay debts built up as their income doesn't even cover basic living costs. "It's crucial that the Government protects low-income families from further poverty by maintaining the £20 uplift to Universal Credit beyond April 2021 and removes the benefit cap. Government also must review the childcare offering – it cannot be right that single parents actually work their way into debt rather than out of it. Without these crucial changes, single parents and their children will continue to experience poverty and to suffer the disadvantage this brings." The report finds that the COVID-19 pandemic has acted as an accelerant for problem debt, exposing more single parent families to poverty. Single parents are more likely to have lost their jobs or to have been furloughed due to working in 'locked down sectors' such as hospitality and retail. In addition, home-schooling is more costly for single parents – they are twice as likely as couple parents to have no ICT equipment at home and twice as likely to have a child on free school meals. As a consequence: 49 per cent of single parents reported taking on more debt since COVID-19. The average amount of debt held by single parents increased by around 15 per cent during the pandemic (an average of more than £600 more debt per household). One in five (22 per cent) said that a temporary increase in the cost of living had negatively impacted their finances since the beginning of COVID-19. According to the report, alongside poverty and high fixed costs, almost half (48 per cent) of single parents who had experienced problem debt had been affected by economic abuse. Those who have suffered economic abuse were more likely to have higher levels of debt, to be forced to make greater sacrifices to meet debt repayments and to be at a greater risk of struggling with their mental health. Many single parents have a child with their former abuser, meaning the abuse may well continue post-separation.  For example, just 24 per cent of those who had experienced economic abuse received maintenance payments in full on a regular basis. Being in debt pushed single parents into further poverty – and, in some cases, destitution. This has a detrimental impact on both living standards and mental health for single parents and their children. Single parents typically seek to protect their children as much as possible from the negative impacts of poverty but, as a result, often experience greater hardship themselves. The report shows that in order to make their debt repayments, 66 per cent of single parents have gone without food and 20 per cent have been forced to cut back on food for their children. In addition: 51 per cent had fallen behind on making rent or mortgage payments as a result of making debt repayments 19 per cent of single parents had to use a food bank as a result of making debt repayments 69 per cent of single parents who were in debt reported struggling with their mental health and 68 per cent of indebted single parents suffered with depression specifically. Following publication of this report, StepChange and Gingerbread are calling on the Government to: Maintain the £20 per week uplift to Universal Credit payments Extend the £20 uplift to legacy benefits Remove the benefit cap Increase the amount of child support payments that are collected through debt collection and effective enforcement mechanisms to tackle parents who attempt to avoid or minimise agreed child support payments Develop a Minimum Income Commission, as recommended by the Institute for Public Policy Research, similar to the Minimum Wage Commission, with a statutory remit of linking state support to actual living costs Better support low-income families looking to save, including by linking the Help to Save Scheme with UC, and considering how voluntary savings may be prioritised over non-priority Government debt Effectively implement the Financial Conduct Authority's vulnerability guidance to better support those affected by economic abuse by regulated financial services. For the report, click here. 14/2/21
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Local Authority and Children’s Guardian fail in appeal against judge’s refusal to support a plan of adoption for children aged 2 and 3: T and R (Refusal of Placement Order) [2021] EWCA Civ 71 | The...

Local Authority and Children’s Guardian fail in appeal against judge’s refusal to support a plan of adoption for children aged 2 and 3: T and R (Refusal of Placement Order) [2021] EWCA Civ 71 | The... | Children In Law |
This is a post by Sophie Smith-Holland. Sophie is a family law barrister at St John’s Chambers, Bristol. She tweets as @SSmithHolland. T & R involved an appeal against a decision to refuse to approve a plan of adoption in respect of two children, T (a 3 year old boy) and R (a 2 year old girl) and accordingly, refuse to make placement orders. His Honour Judge Richards (HHJ Richards) reached this decision despite all of the professional and expert witnesses in the case supporting a plan of adoption. Instead, HHJ Richards decided that it was in T and R’s best interests to be placed in long-term foster care.  The local authority and the children’s guardian appealed, but the Court of Appeal dismissed their appeals. I am going to explain the background, HHJ Richards’ decision and the decision of the Court of Appeal.  Every case is fact specific, but this case is interesting in setting out which factors tipped the balance against adoption.  Background T and R had four older sisters, aged 7, 6, 5 and 4 at the time of the appeal hearing. Their family was part of the traveller community.  The local authority had concerns about inappropriate accommodation and one of the older children (C) was underweight, developmentally delayed, found to have sustained two metaphyseal fractures, and was malnourished and neglected.  In October 2018 the court made interim care orders in respect of all the children, meaning that they went into the care of the local authority during the court proceedings. The children were placed in three separate foster placements. T and R were placed together.  The court held a fact-finding hearing in respect of the concerns being raised by the local authority, to try to work out what had happened. For example, to try to work out who had caused C’s injuries.  After reading and hearing all the evidence, HHJ Richards concluded that:  the parents had failed to give priority to C’s needs and failed to maintain necessary and rigorous standards of hygiene for her; C’s fractures had been caused as a result of one or other parent pulling or lifting her by the arms with sufficient force to cause the fractures. He was unable to determine which of the parents was responsible but was satisfied that there was a real possibility that either of them had done it; there had been occasions during their relationship when the father had lost his temper and become aggressive and sometimes violent (the parents admitted this). The judge accepted the parents’ evidence, however, that they remained in a close relationship which was supportive and respectful, and a reflection of their culture, upbringing and background. He was not satisfied that their relationship was generally characterised by verbal arguments or abuse. After the fact-finding hearing, the court ordered expert reports from psychologists and an independent social worker. Dr Hunnisett conducted a cognitive assessment of the father and the children. Another psychologist completed an assessment of the mother. An independent social worker, Ms Sue Hayward, completed a parenting assessment to assess the parents’ capacity to provide good enough care for the children. There were some delays in receiving the expert reports due to the pandemic.  The psychologists concluded that the parents both had considerable cognitive difficulties which restricted their ability to meet the children’s needs. Dr Hunnisett noted that the parents had a real and deep love of their children, want the best for them, and were unswerving in their belief that only they can provide what is best in terms of care, education and growing up with an understanding of their culture and heritage as members of a traveller family. She concluded, however, that they would be overwhelmed by the demands of caring for the children. In her report, Dr Hunnisett recommended that the children all remain in their current foster placements.  Ms Hayward described the parents as strongly identified with traveller culture and said the older children had a strong sense of identity and loyalty to their parents. Although there was no doubt about the deep love and commitment of the parents to the children, it was her clear view that the children did not feel safe in their care and that there was no prospect of the parents acquiring the insight and skills needed to look after the children safely within reasonable timescales, if at all. In her report, Ms Hayward recommended that all six children should remain in foster care, including T and R who had formed an attachment to their carers.  The final hearing At the final hearing, the local authority asked the court to make final care orders in respect of all the children. The local authority’s plan was that the older four children would be placed in long term foster care and T and R would be adopted. The children’s guardian supported the local authority’s case but felt that the issue of whether T and R should be adopted was a finely balanced decision.  The court heard evidence from all of the professional and expert witnesses and the parents. In addition to those mentioned above, the court heard from the local authority adoption social worker (RA), the social worker allocated to the family (TR) and the children’s guardian.  In her oral evidence, Dr Hunnisett told the judge that she had been persuaded by the arguments put forward by TR and the children’s guardian and now supported the plan for adoption for T and R. She said that it was their ages which persuaded her that this was the right outcome. Importantly, she added that sibling contact was very important for all six children and she saw no reason to exclude the parents from that contact, provided they accepted that the children would be placed away from the family home. Ms Hayward said in her oral evidence that if T and R could not remain in their current placement (at the time of the hearing it was assumed that they could not) she would favour adoption.  RA said she was optimistic that an adoptive placement could be found for T and R that would allow for inter-sibling contact in circumstances where the siblings were having contact with their parents. It was her opinion that prospective adopters who did not accept such a course would be rejected as the wrong match for the children.  TR’s evidence was summarised by the judge in these terms:  “…the need for permanence was the ultimate goal and it came above the need to maintain the children’s culture and heritage and with that, inevitably, the risk of contact never taking place were there to be an adoption.” The children’s guardian shared the unanimous professional opinion that the children could not safely be returned to the care of the parents. With regard to T and R, she favoured adoption, although she told the judge that it was a finely balanced decision. She said that her support for adoption was the ages of T and R. She regarded sibling contact and the maintenance of their cultural heritage as essential. She thought it likely that any adopters would require expert assistance to understand and promote traveller culture, describing it as an issue that would “not go away”. Ultimately, she felt that the security offered by adoption came before all else and, although finely balanced, her opinion was that adoption would give the best prospect of a settled childhood for T and R to grow up together. In their evidence, the parents stressed the fundamental importance they attached to their culture and put forward a case that the children should be returned to their care.  The decision HHJ Richards’ decision was handed down on 28 August 2020. His order was to approve the plan for the older children, but he declined to endorse the plan in respect to T and R and invited the local authority to reconsider the plan, with a view to them remaining in long-term foster care, like their siblings. The local authority and the children’s guardian did not agree with the decision and asked for permission to appeal against the dismissal of the placement order applications. The judge refused the applications and directed that the children should remain in the interim care of the local authority, pending any further application for permission to appeal.  Permission to appeal was granted on 2 November 2020 and it was listed for an appeal hearing on 9 December 2020. At the time of the appeal, T and R were still living together in the same foster placement and they had formed close attachments with their carers.  The appeal – consideration of the judgment The appeal was heard by the Court of Appeal and the main judgment was from Lord Justice Baker, who went through HHJ Richards’ judgment very carefully. He set out the following main points: HHJ Richards concluded that T and R have a strong and real sense of belonging to their family. He acknowledged the importance of the cultural heritage issues and concluded that there was “no doubt that the children had truly lived the traveller culture and life with their parents.” HHJ Richards noted that contact was considered essential between the siblings between all the professionals and experts in the case. He said “It is of genetic and cultural importance to them. It has been described as an absolute necessity and so important that prospective adopters who would not contemplate it should be disregarded and that the psychological wellbeing of the whole group would be damaged if not maintained.” HHJ Richards had set out the advantages and disadvantages of the three options for the children: return home, long term foster care and (for T and R) adoption. He concluded that none of the children should return home to the parents, that the older children should remain in long-term foster care and he then thought very carefully about long-term foster care versus adoption for T and R regarding long-term foster care, in addition to the advantages of a safe environment and ongoing family contact, HHJ Richards identified that it would “keep alive, reinforce and foster the background from which these children come and which they understand”. He noted that the disadvantages of long-term foster care are well known, the principal disadvantage being it is different to returning home or adoption as though described as permanent, there is always a risk that it can change regarding adoption for T and R, HHJ Richards considered that the advantages of adoption were “well known”. Adoption would offer the prospect of selected carers committed to meeting the needs of the children and with life-long commitment to security and emotional stability. It is referred to as a “forever family”. Further, due to the children’s ages, there was a risk that they would spend the entirety of their lives as being looked after children in respect of the disadvantages, he noted that adoption would inevitably mean that contact could not be secured with anything like certainty with their siblings and contact with their birth parents would be severed in law and fact. The relationship with the parents, apart from the usual aspects of natural love and affection, comes with the “only real hope that these children have of knowing or understanding their background, where they come from, and, through their culture and heritage, what I would describe as their place in the world.” In respect of contact, with adoption “there is no effective mechanism for it to be maintained other than, in reality, by the agreement and good will of the adopters, upon whom everybody would have to rely in terms of keeping their word. The court would be unlikely to foist an unwanted contact order upon adopters in respect of sibling contact, and certainly not in respect of parental contact.” HHJ Richards concluded that on the facts of this case, the advantages of adoption were outweighed by the real disadvantages in the risk pertaining to contact and the consequences of it. He said: “I am not satisfied that the strict test for severing the relationship between children and their parents and their siblings is satisfied, and I am not able to find any reassurance that a factual continuing of the sibling relationship can be assured to anywhere near the level of certainty that has been described to me and which in my judgment is needed to reflect its importance to these children genetically and culturally. Additionally, in my view, there is a real need to ensure that the culture and heritage of the two children is not lost by being placed away from it. It is of real value to them and it is where they come from. The risks of that being diluted to nothing or being ignored are not fanciful in my view. They are real risks. That aspect of their development can only be maintained by contact with their parents, which in my judgment simply would not happen in an adoptive placement as opposed to a foster placement.”  HHJ Richards recognised that in refusing to make the order sought and refusing to approve the care plan, he was departing from the recommendation of the children’s guardian and said “I do so in circumstances where I find that the decision is not as finely balanced as the guardian felt it was. I have had the considerable advantage of being able to hear detailed evidence and cross-examination about the powerful arguments on each side and particularly in respect of a placement order. For my part, with those advantages, having heard from Dr Hunnisett and the independent social worker about the crucial value of contact, which was recognised by the guardian and emphasised by her, that, coupled with my assessment of the importance of retaining links for the younger children with their culture and heritage which I am persuaded to give more weight to than the guardian, leads me to a different conclusion. It is less finely balanced for me because of the unique privilege I had of hearing the evidence given and tested.” He concluded, “I accept that it can be said that there is no right answer, but in my view, when measured against the yardstick of proportionality, which is what the welfare checklist requires, and reminding myself of the strict test that nothing else will do, in my judgment it makes that decision less finely balanced for me; one where plainly adoption is not in the children’s best interests as a placement of last resort. It is not necessary in this case. For those reasons, I depart from the recommendations of the guardian.” The appeal – decision Lord Justice Baker noted that HHJ Richards had reached a different conclusion to the professional and expert witnesses and concluded “In my view, he was entitled to reach that conclusion and his exposition of his reasons was clear and convincing.” He made the following key points:  due to the advice of Dr Hunnisett, if the court did not make sure that contact between the six children continued it would risk damaging the psychological development of the whole sibling group. Whilst RA was optimistic about the prospects of finding adopters who would be willing to accept ongoing sibling contact, neither she nor anyone else could guarantee that such adopters could be found nor that they would adhere to any commitment to contact. There was plainly a risk that sibling contact would not take place after adoption. Given the fundamental importance attached to such contact by the professional witnesses, HHJ Richards was entitled to conclude in the interests of T and R that the risk was one which should not be taken HHJ Richards attached importance to continuing contact between T and R and their parents. One of his reasons for doing so was his conclusion that contact represented the best prospect of maintaining and nurturing the children’s understanding of their cultural history and of their place in the world. His findings that T and R had a strong and real sense of belonging to this family and as to the central importance of their cultural heritage to all of the children, including the younger two, were plainly open to him on the evidence. He reached the view that it would be difficult for the children to retain sufficient awareness of their heritage in an adoptive placement, in part (but not only) because of the strong opposition to adoption within the traveller community.  The Court of Appeal decided that HHJ Richards had provided clear and coherent reasons for his decision, including, as case law requires, his reasons for departing from the recommendation of the children’s guardian. Therefore, the court declined to interfere with the decision and the appeal was dismissed.  Comment This case provides a reminder that in care and placement order proceedings, it is the judge alone who has the responsibility of making the decision as to the future of the child or children and that judges should not and do not just blindly follow the advice given to them by professional or expert witnesses. Instead, they consider and analyse all of the evidence themselves and reach their own conclusions in respect of what is in the child or children’s best interests.  The case also highlights the importance of carrying out a thorough balancing exercise in respect of the advantages and disadvantages of each of the realistic options, which is specific to the facts of the case and the children concerned. The children’s guardian had in her evidence, relied on the ‘usual’ advantages in respect of adoption, which are well known. In practice, I often see that the ‘usual’ advantages and disadvantage of adoption are weighed against the ‘usual’ advantages and disadvantages of long-term foster care. Whilst important considerations, it is not enough to just regurgitate these points in the balancing exercise, without more. In this case, the ‘usual’ benefits of adoption were actually outweighed by the risks specific to the subject children and the facts of the case, particularly the need for T and R to maintain a relationship with their family and to ensure that their culture and heritage was not lost. The idea of long-term foster care for children aged 3 and 2 years old might not sit very well with some readers. In practice, I often see children described as ‘adoptable’ due to their young age (usually aged 5 or less) and this does seem to tip the balance in favour of adoption in the minds of professionals sometimes. In my opinion, this practice encourages inadequate consideration of the factors that weigh against adoption over and above the ‘usual’. HHJ Richards warned strongly against this approach in his judgment and made clear that he was concerned that “the approach to the placement of the children by way of adoption has been driven by a combination of their age and that they are adoptable. For my part, it has overlooked – to some considerable degree – the loss which I have identified and which would come with such a course and an acceptance of the powerful ‘usual practice’ without a true counterbalance of what are also powerful factors in this case against the making of a placement order leading to adoption. It is not right in my judgement for these two young children. There is no such thing as the ‘normal order’ because of age and apparent ‘adoptability’ [my bold] I hope that this judgment might (1) invite professionals to re-evaluate how they carry out the balancing exercise and (2) provide a reassuring example for parents and those who represent them that “nothing else will do” remains the test for the court when there is a plan of adoption.  Feature Pic: Swing by Michael Kappel at Flickr with thanks We have a small favour to ask!  The Transparency Project is a registered charity in England & Wales run largely by volunteers who also have full-time jobs. We’re working hard to secure extra funding so that we can keep making family justice clearer for all who use the court and work within it.  We’d be really grateful if you were able to help us by making a small one-off (or regular!) donation through our Just Giving page.  Thanks for reading!
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Judge hits out at lack of regulated placement for vulnerable, suicidal 16 year old, despite 11 High Court hearings and sending series of judgments to ministers – Local Government Lawyer –

Judge hits out at lack of regulated placement for vulnerable, suicidal 16 year old, despite 11 High Court hearings and sending series of judgments to ministers – Local Government Lawyer – | Children In Law |
‘An exasperated High Court judge has sent a fourth judgment to ministers over the continuing unavailability of a regulated placement for a vulnerable 16 year old with multifaceted difficultie…...
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'Short-termist' government funding for children's services 'destabilising' councils' ability to sustain provision

'Short-termist' government funding for children's services 'destabilising' councils' ability to sustain provision | Children In Law |
“Short-termist” government funding for children’s services is “destabilising” councils’ ability to plan and sustain services in the medium to long-term.That was the warning from the Association of Directors of Children’s Services in its seventh Safeguarding Pressures report, the ADCS’s series of ...
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Family Law Week: ADCS report highlights safeguarding pressures before and during pandemic

Home > News ADCS report highlights safeguarding pressures before and during pandemic The Association of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS) has published the full report of its latest iteration of Safeguarding Pressures research. For over a decade ADCS has collected both qualitative and quantitative data from local authorities to evidence and better understand changes in demand for, and provision of, children's social care and associated services. This report outlines pressures faced by local authorities during 2019/20 while also including a focus on activity in the first six months of the Covid-19 pandemic. The report draws together survey responses from 129 of all local authorities in England, covering 89 per cent of England's children and young people population. These, together with existing data, provide an insight into the safeguarding related pressures facing children's services across the country. As of 31 March 2020: There were an estimated 2.5 million initial contacts received by local authorities in 2019/20, an increase of 5 per cent in the last two years. There were 642,980 referrals to children's social care in 2019/20, an increase of 19 per cent since 2008. The number of children subjects of child protection plans has increased by 76 per cent since 2008. Adults experiencing domestic abuse, mental health difficulties or substance misuse, are the most common reasons why children come to the attention of early help and/or children's social care services. The number of Section 47 Enquiries continues to rise, up 162 per cent since 2008. £824 million is required just for children's services to 'stay still'. Nearly half of the respondents to the survey reported a reduction in funding ranging between 15 per cent and 30 per cent. Funding for the Troubled Families Programme continues to prop up the delivery of early help services in children's services. The report also captured some of the impact of the pandemic on children's services. In the six months up to 30 September 2020: It is estimated that 81,900 children were in care, an increase of 34 per cent in 12 years and up 6 per cent since 2018/19. There were an estimated 284,400 referrals to children's social care. There was a 4 per cent increase in children who were subjects of child protection plans at 30 September 2020 compared to the same period last year. For the Safeguarding Pressures Phase 7 report, click here. For the executive summary, click here. 26/2/21
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UK: Home Office £1000 fee for children to register as British citizens is unlawful | Amnesty International UK

UK: Home Office £1000 fee for children to register as British citizens is unlawful | Amnesty International UK | Children In Law |
Court rules that Home Office failed to assess and consider the impact of this fee on children and their rights Lawyers and campaigners again urge Government to bring practice of ‘blocking’ children’s citizenship rights to an immediate end...
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In pursuit of social justice – is a hearing held in public enough to h – Bath Publishing Limited

In pursuit of social justice – is a hearing held in public enough to h – Bath Publishing Limited | Children In Law |
A panel of leading journalists, lawyers and campaigners discuss whether whether justice done in public is enough on its own to keep the state in check.  Watch the recording below or add to the cart and check out (you will not be charged) to download and watch offline.
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What's the household composition of families in the family justice system? Linking data to fill the evidence gaps

What's the household composition of families in the family justice system? Linking data to fill the evidence gaps | Children In Law |
What's the household composition of families in the family justice system? Linking data to fill the evidence gaps - 18th Feb 2021 One of Nuffield FJO’s aims is to find and fill the gaps in our understanding about children and families in the family justice system. Who are they? Where do they live? Who do they live with? What is their journey through the system? What happens following contact with the system? It is only by answering these questions that we can ensure that the system is responding to the needs of the children and families involved. We have set out what we already know in our infographic—and are working with others to fill the gaps.   One of the ways we are doing this is through the Family Justice Data Partnership (FJDP)—a collaboration between Lancaster University and Swansea University, funded by Nuffield FJO. FJDP is using novel data linkage methods to fill the evidence gaps, linking anonymous data from Cafcass and Cafcass Cymru about children involved in family law proceedings to other administrative datasets that contain information about the same children—for example, health or education data. In the long term this has the potential to vastly increase what we know about the characteristics and outcomes of children and families in the family justice system. This blog summarises new research by the FJDP (PDF) to address one of the gaps identified in our infographic—who are children in the family justice system in Wales living with? The research also sheds light on housing security. In order to answer this question, the team linked data collected by Cafcass Cymru to Welsh GP registration data held at the SAIL (Secure Anonymised Information Linkage) Databank. GP registration data includes information about where people live, their age, and how long they have been registered at a current address. Using this data, the researchers derived information about the relationships between people in the household, and how long families had been living there, which provides some information about housing security. More information about the data sources and how this analysis was undertaken is available here (PDF). Key findings Who are children living with? The data shows that children involved in both public and private law proceedings are more likely to be living in lone-parent households than their peers. Around 10% of children involved in public law proceedings are living in households with their grandparents and without their parents—a much higher proportion than in the comparison group. This perhaps suggests that kinship care arrangements are in place. Prior to this analysis, the most recent estimates of the number of children living with grandparents in the general population came from analysis of 2011 census data (Wijedasa 2017). The data also helps us understand how many other children might be living in a household, such as siblings or step-siblings. The graph below shows that the majority of households lived in by children involved in private law proceedings in Wales have one or two children living in them. There are slightly more families with three or more children living them in public law proceedings than in private law proceedings or in the comparison group. We can compare this to other research about the number of public and private law cases that involve siblings. We know that in England around 37% of public law cases involve more than one child (NFJO 2021). In private law, around 60% of cases involve a single child, around 30% involve two siblings, and just 10% involve three or more siblings (Cusworth et al. 2020, 2021). This suggests that not all children living in a household will be involved in proceedings. Household insecurity Average tenancy duration was also calculated using the number of years a family had been living at their address prior to the family court application. This provides a measure of household insecurity—a factor that is linked to deprivation. Average tenancy duration was lower for families involved in both public and private law proceedings than in the comparison sample, where the average tenancy duration was around eight years. In public law this was slightly lower, at six years, and even lower in private law, with an average of five years. This suggests greater housing insecurity among families involved in public and private law proceedings in Wales, and links to previous FJDP research which has shown a clear link between deprivation and public and private law need (Johnson et al 2020; Griffiths et al 2020; Cusworth et al. 2020, 2021). The fact that tenancy duration was lowest among private law families is noteworthy, perhaps indicative of the upheaval associated with family separation, and a need for greater support and assistance for families in private law proceedings. Next steps Linking Cafcass Cymru data to GP registration data has helped us fill in some of the gaps about who children in the family justice system are living with in Wales. FJDP is planning to build on this work and to help answer further questions by linking to other data sources. For example, by linking to national health data, the physical and mental health of family members can be examined. Understanding who is coming to court, their circumstances and characteristics, will enable us to better understand the needs of children and families in the family justice system, and to direct support and resources to those that need it most. Authored by Alice Roe, Researcher at NFJO. The analysis was carried out by Rhodri Johnson and Lucy Griffiths (Swansea University) as part of the Family Justice Data Partnership. Guidance note
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J, K, and L (Children) (Transnational Abandonment) [2021] EWHC 280 (Fam) (12 February 2021)

J, K, and L (Children) (Transnational Abandonment) [2021] EWHC 280 (Fam) (12 February 2021) | Children In Law |
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Lancashire County Council v G (No. 4)(Continuing Unavailability of Regulated Placement) [2021] EWHC 244 (Fam) (11 February 2021)

Lancashire County Council v G (No. 4)(Continuing Unavailability of Regulated Placement) [2021] EWHC 244 (Fam) (11 February 2021) | Children In Law |
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Family Law Week: Changes to the Adoption and Children (Coronavirus) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2020

Home > News Changes to the Adoption and Children (Coronavirus) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2020 DfE launches consultation The Department for Education is seeking views on its proposal to extend or amend a limited number of flexibilities within the Adoption and Children (Coronavirus) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2020, in relation to Medical Reports, Virtual Visits and Ofsted Inspections. The DfE says that the overriding objective in any amendments to the statutory framework is to enable the most effective support and protection to children and their families, by local authorities, local safeguarding partners and regulated services, within the statutory framework. On 24 April 2020, the Adoption and Children (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 came into force to provide local authorities (LAs) and children's social care providers with temporary flexibilities to support them during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. In August 2020 the government consulted on whether to continue some of the flexibilities in the children's social care sector that came into effect in April. These were in relation to the stage of the respective approvals process for adopters and foster carers that the medical reports would be needed, virtual visits/contacts and Ofsted inspection intervals. Following the consultation, a further set of regulations were laid. These are due to elapse on 31 March 2021. For the consultation document, click here. 14/2/21
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Family Law Week: Councils must give parents clear information during safeguarding investigations

Home > News Councils must give parents clear information during safeguarding investigations The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman is reminding councils of their duties to parents when asking them to leave the family home during safeguarding investigations, following an investigation into a complaint about Newcastle City Council. A man complained to the Ombudsman that, following an allegation he had been harming his children, social workers told him to leave the family home, but did not make it clear to him this was voluntary. The council did not review the agreement while the accusations were investigated and instead left the man with the distress and uncertainty of not knowing for how long he would be away from his family. The allegations about the man's behaviour were withdrawn and the man returned home. The council referred the family to a family support worker but after just seven visits, that support was stopped without warning. When the man complained, it took the council around seven months longer to complete its investigation than the timeframes in the children's services statutory complaints procedure. During the Stage Three hearing, the investigating officer offended the man by suggesting he may have misunderstood advice given to him, when he was asked to leave the family home, because his first language is not English. The man was particularly upset because it was not true, it had not been raised previously, and the panel investigating his complaint was comprised only of white members, following an investigation conducted by a white investigating officer. The officer's comment led to the man losing trust in the objectivity of the council's complaints process, and believing that his ethnicity was a contributing factor in the investigating officer agreeing with the council. In this case the council has agreed to apologise to the man and pay him a £1,150 in recognition of the time, trouble, uncertainty and distress his family have been caused. The council has also agreed to amend its Safety Plan template to ensure signatories understand the agreement is voluntary and to explain any consequences of not following the agreement. It will also remind relevant staff of the importance of providing parents with all the information they need to make informed decisions and keeping a record of any agreements. Furthermore, it will produce a strategy to ensure it meets the timescales for statutory children's complaints and provide guidance and training to relevant staff on unconscious bias and the importance of inclusive and diverse public services. For the report of this case, click here and then click on the link at the top right of the page opened. 14/2/21
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Launch of supervision order survey

Launch of supervision order survey | Children In Law |
Nuffield FJO is launching a new consultation seeking views about supervision orders and their use in care proceedings. The survey relates to those cases where a stand-alone supervision order was made in relation to at least one of the children involved in the proceedings (in other words the supervision order was not attached to another order such as a Child Arrangements Order or an SGO). We want to hear from parents, family members and professionals who have been involved in care proceedings in the last six years where a supervision order was made. The survey will open today, 15 February and will be open for three weeks until 8 March 2021. Access the survey here Supervision orders are often made at the end of care proceedings if children are returning home or remaining at home instead of going into care. Recent research from the University of Lancaster has raised some queries about the usefulness of supervision orders, as well as demonstrating the wide variation in practice across courts in relation to the making of such orders and across local authorities in relation to their implementation. The President’s Public Law Working Group is taking a detailed look at the operation of supervision orders and has asked the Nuffield FJO to assist with this by carrying out this consultation. The survey has a number of different sections for completion by different groups of professionals, and for parents and family members. The survey will take approximately 10-15 minutes to complete. In addition to this survey, researchers at the University of Lancaster will be conducting focus groups and interviews with parents. If you are a parent who would like to take part in a focus group or interview, please contact Judith Harwin ( or Lily Golding (; 07511 555990) at the University of Lancaster.  If you are working with parents who currently have a child with a supervision order, or who have recently experienced this, please encourage them to complete the survey or, if they would prefer to be interviewed, please share the contact information for Judith Harwin and Lily Golding. If you are a parent and in contact with local authority children’s services and would like advice about your situation or child’s situation we regret that we cannot provide advice but please see this page where there are details of organisations who can help you. To receive updates on this consultation, and the wider work of the Nuffield FJO, please subscribe to our mailing list.
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