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Child Care or Issues Involving Social Services Blog

What is a Looked After Child Review?

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A Looked After Child Review can also be known as a LAC Review or a Statutory Review or a Review of Arrangements. This meeting includes all the people who are involved within the child’s life and discusses the child’s progress and how their needs...

What is Parental Responsibility?

Adarsh Patel
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Parental responsibility is the rights and responsibilities a parent has over their child. It simply encompasses completing the role of a parent that one would expect a parent to do. Parental responsibility is the legal term given to the legal rights and...

Can children give evidence in care proceedings?

Isabelle Swirles
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The guideline to whether children should give evidence in care proceedings is set out in the case of Re W (2010) which is now the leading authority on this issue. The considerations that are outlined in Re W in deciding whether a child should give evidence...

What assessments can the Local Authority do with my family?

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Depending on what stage your case is at, the Local Authority could propose to undertake a number of different types of assessments when Social Services become involved with your family. What is a Section 47? Every child who has been referred to the...

What is a Children's Guardian?

Adarsh Patel
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When the Local Authority issue Care Proceedings to seek Public Law Orders regarding children, the subject children will be allocated a Children’s Guardian to represent their views, wishes and best interests throughout the proceedings. The Guardian is...

Can I get Legal Aid to Contest a Special Guardianship Order?

Emily Jones
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What is a Special Guardianship Order? A Special Guardianship Order (SGO) is a long lasting, Private Law Order, made by the Family Court. The Order appoints one or more individuals to become the child’s ‘Special Guardian.’ This gives...

My child is in care and is having a sibling assessment, what does this mean?

Isabelle Swirles
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A sibling assessment will evaluate the bond and relationship between siblings. A sibling can be defined as a person whom you share at least one biological parent with. An assessment will consider the sibling dynamic, and the impact separation would have on...

What does an Interim Care Order mean?

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When the Local Authority considers that a child is at risk of significant harm, they can apply for a Care Order or an Interim Care Order. This would only be granted if the Court finds reasonable grounds to believe that a child has  suffered or is at...

What is a Communicourt Intermediary?

Adarsh Patel
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Communicourt is an intermediary service mostly funded by HMCTS, with no charges or payments required by parents or legal professionals. In the context of Care Proceedings, their aim is to assist a parent who has a communication difficulty which impairs their...

Can my Legal Representative attend a Child Protection Conference with me?

Emily Jones
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What is a Child Protection Conference? A Child Protection Conference is a multi-agency meeting arranged by the Local Authority.  The purpose of the conference is for family members and professionals involved in a child’s life to share...

Can my baby be placed for adoption by the Local Authority against my will?

Chelsea  Harris
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Your baby being placed for adoption against your will is referred to as a non-consensual adoption or contested adoption. The term ‘forced adoption’ is not a term that is used within the Family Court but is used widely in the media. Before an...

What is a Child Assessment Order?

Emily Jones
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If the Local Authority are concerned about a child’s health, development or the way that they are being treated, but do not feel that there is an immediate risk to them, they may request that various assessments are undertaken. These assessments are...

Jade's Law: What is it and How Does it Affect Me?

Adarsh Patel
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By the end of 2023, Justice Secretary Alex Chalk plans to introduce a new law before Parliament which would result in parents who kill their partner or ex-partner with whom they have children to automatically have their parental responsibility suspended upon...

What is a ParentAssess Assessment: How is it different to PAMS?

Isabelle Swirles
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PAMS stands for ‘ parenting assessment manual software ’ . It was an assessment used with parents or carers that have learning difficulties or additional needs. Its aim is to assess the parent ’ s capacity and to support them in...

The Court could make a Supervision Order or Care Order, what approach needs to be applied by the Court when considering these Orders?

Chelsea  Harris
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The recent decision in the Court of Appeal in the case of JW (Child at home under Care Order) [2023] EWCA CIV 944 is a reminder of the approach that should be taken when considering making final Supervision and Care Orders. The judgement provides a summary...

What is a Placement Order?

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A Placement Order is a Court Order which says that a Local Authority can place a child for adoption with prospective adopters, who have passed all the necessary checks and are a suitable match for a child. It does not mean a child has been adopted. However,...

What is a Special Guardianship Order?

Isabelle Swirles
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A Special Guardianship Order is an order that can appoint one or more individuals to be a child ’ s ‘ Special Guardian ’ . They are typically made when a parent or carer can no longer care and is made pursuant to the Children Act 1989 and...

What is a Supervision Order?

Adarsh Patel
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A Supervision Order is one of many orders that the Court has the power to grant a Local Authority in Childcare Proceedings under section 35 Children Act 1989. The purpose of a Supervision Order is to impose a duty on the Local Authority to support the...

What is the new law on a Section 20 agreement and how does this affect me?

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What is a Section 20 agreement? You as a parent can voluntarily enter into a Section 20 agreement. A Section 20 agreement allows your child to be accommodated willingly in either foster care, with your friends, or with relatives, and this can be...

Mothers' reoccurrence at care proceedings: how can we prevent the cycle?

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It has been estimated that 1 in 4 women in England and Wales are at risk of return to court within 10 years after the initial set of proceedings. In 2015, findings from Broadhurst et al provided the first evidence presenting the repeated return of mothers to...

I received a Letter of Intent to Issue Care Proceedings - What Does This Mean?

Adarsh Patel
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The Local Authority will send you a Letter of Intent to Issue Care Proceedings once they have decided that there are significant concerns regarding the safety of your child/children, and the only way to keep them safe is to seek intervention from the Court....

Why are Drug/Alcohol Tests Ordered with Child Care Cases?

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Substance abuse can have a significant impact on childcare proceedings, as it can lead to social workers having concerns about the safety and wellbeing of children. When a parent or caregiver struggles with substance abuse, it is thought they may be unable...

I'm being asked to consent to a section 20, can this be a long-term agreement?

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What is a section 20? Section 20 is a voluntary arrangement that parents can consent to and withdraw this consent at any time. The agreement allows the child to be voluntarily accommodated in foster care or with friends or family and this can be supported...

My children are in foster care, can I get them back?

Emily Jones
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  What is a Foster Carer? Foster Carers can offer children a safe and loving home when they are not able to remain with their birth parents. Why have my children been placed into Foster Care? Children may live with foster carers on a short or...

Can the Police Obtain Information From my Childcare Proceedings?

Adarsh Patel
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Childcare proceedings are confidential, which means the disclosure of information deriving from proceedings is governed by strict rules and protocols. If the Police wish to obtain information from your childcare proceedings, they need to make an application...

Can I have more contact with my child who is in care?

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The Local Authority in each area will have a designated team who deal with Child Protection. They have a wide range of duties and powers as detailed within laws. One of the duties and powers of the Local Authority is contained within Section 34 and is around...

What is a Section 91(14) Order and how can it protect me?

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A Section 91(14) Order is known as a ‘barring order’ and relates to Section 91(14) of the Children Act 1989. This type of Order allows the court to prevent individuals, usually parents, from making an application to the court without the...

What is a Fact-Finding Hearing?

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The Court has the power to order a fact-finding hearing in care proceedings, yet many parents did not know what a fact-finding hearing is until speaking to a solicitor. This article aims to explain what a fact-finding hearing is in a simple manner. To...

Will I get extra support during Care Proceedings?

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If you are a parent with additional needs, such as learning difficulties or cognitive functioning issues and the Local Authority are involved with your children, you may be entitled to extra support. What are Care Proceedings? When the Local Authority...

Can the media report on my family court proceedings?

Jasmine Lees
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Generally, those subject to family court proceedings are protected from the details of their case being shared with the public. This applies to both private and public law family proceedings and only very limited reporting can take place with the...

Can I Oppose an Adoption Application?

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The Local Authority might have been successful in obtaining a care and placement order for your child, but that does not mean that your child will be adopted once a prospective adopter has been found. With permission from the Court, there could be one last...

What is sexual assault and how can I get help?

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Sexual assault happens when someone touches another person in a sexual manner without their consent.  The Sexual Offences Act 2003 says that someone commits sexual assault if all of the following happens; They intentionally touch another person. The...

The Local Authority have issued care proceedings - how long will it take?

Jasmine Lees
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How long should public law proceedings take? When the Local Authority initiate public law care proceedings, the standard duration of these proceedings should be 26 weeks which equates to 6 months. There may be some variance on this timeframe, and this...

What does it mean when the local authority initiates a s47 investigation?

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A section 47 investigation (S.47) stems from the Children Act 1989 which is legislation that governs England and Wales.  It means the Local Authority/Children’s Services have received a referral which has been made to them by any persons who have...

What is Pre-Proceedings?

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The Local Authority issue the pre-proceedings process where there are significant concerns regarding a child or children that are suffering harm or a child or children that are likely to suffer serious harm. This could be physical, sexual, or emotional...

What should I do if I am asked to consent to a s20 agreement?

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What is a s20 agreement? A s20 agreement allows the Local Authority to accommodate a child and place them in foster care or other placement without a Court order. If the Local Authority are involved in your children’s lives and believe that they...

National DoLs Court: a quarterly update

Jasmine Lees
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Following on from the National Deprivation of Liberty (DoLs) Court being announced in July 2022, the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory have published data in relation to the use of such applications. Over the first 3 months, there has been 349 applications...

I have been invited to a Child Protection Conference for my child - what does this mean?

Chelsea  Harris
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The Local Authority will arrange a child protection conference for a child if there are concerns regarding the child being abused or it is believed that the child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm. A child protection conference can also be...

What is child protection?

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Child protection is about making sure children are kept safe and free from harm. Local Authority Children’s Services often become involved with families where children might be at risk of harm. Child protection means that professional services can...

Who takes care of unaccompanied minors when they enter the UK?

Jasmine Lees
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Unaccompanied minors are children who enter the UK and may be seeking asylum under the Refugee Convention and may also be known as ‘unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC). These children may experience a number of forms of harm prior to their...

Can my children live with their grandparents if I am not able to care?

Jasmine Lees
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When the Local Authority have concerns surrounding a parent (or carer’s) care of a child then the Local Authority may complete an initial viability assessment of the capability of any wider family members or friends to provide safe care for the child....

What is an Emergency Protection Order (EPO)?

Jasmine Lees
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An Emergency Protection Order (EPO) is a time limited protective order for emergency situation whereby there is reasonable cause to believe that a child is likely to suffer significant harm on 3 grounds: The child is not removed (i.e. from a home address)...

National DoLs Court is being launched at the Royal Courts of Justice

Chelsea  Harris
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DoL stands for ‘Deprivation of Liberty’ and means that a person’s freedom is taken away from them. Being deprived of liberty will mean that a person is under continuous supervision and control and is not permitted to leave a certain place....

Blood Alcohol Testing: Is PEth is leading the way?

Chelsea  Harris
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You may be asked to engage in blood alcohol testing. This has now become an essential part in providing an insight into an individual’s alcohol consumption and providing an evidential picture within proceedings before the Family Court. In Family cases...

WHAT WILL SHOW UP IN MY DRUGS AND/OR ALCOHOL TEST?

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If the Local Authority has concerns about your suspected alcohol or substance misuse, they may well ask you to agree to be tested. There are several different ways to test for alcohol or substance use, each of which will be further explored within this...

What will happen when my child is ready to leave Local Authority care?

Chelsea  Harris
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Once a Care Order is made at Court, this Order remains in place until a child reaches 18 years old. Once a child reaches adulthood, the Care Order will cease to have effect. The Local Authority have a duty to support young people who have been subject to a...

Putting Children's voices at the heart of reform. A report by Dame Rachel De Souza, Children's Commissioner for England January 2022.

Chelsea  Harris
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The report completed by Dame Rachel De Souza is dedicated to the children in care, who have voiced their experiences. These children have shared their thoughts and personal experiences in the hope that change can be brought for the children who follow in...

Almost 100,000 children could be in Local Authority care in England by 2025

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The County Councils network (CCN) say more needs to be done to assist keeping families together. If this is not achieved soon, Local Authorities could spend up to £3.6bn more a year placing children in care by 2025, compared to 2015. If these trends...

What happens if my children are separated in foster care?

Jasmine Lees
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A BBC article dated 26 th January 2022 shone a light on the separation of siblings upon children entering the foster care system. The article highlights that around 45% of sibling groups are split up into different placements when the Local Authority become...

Are Local Authority Leicester City Council Children's Services Department meeting the needs of families and their children? Update 2022

Chelsea  Harris
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We previously wrote about the first Social Care Annual Report that was released from Ofsted in 2013. This report identified that a vast majority of Local Authorities were inadequate, and some child safeguarding services were struggling to meet basic...

I have a meeting with social services, can a solicitor attend with me?

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There may be lots of reasons why social services are inviting you to a meeting. For some of these meetings, you may be entitled to legal representation, meaning a solicitor can attend the meeting with you and give you advice about the issues discussed. ...

What does 'risk of sexual harm' mean?

Jasmine Lees
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In November 2021, the NSPCC confirmed that a record number of people had contacted their service due to concerns around child sexual abuse, with nearly 5,000 calls made within a 6 month period. There are concerns that the risk of this type of abuse has...

Social Services have asked me to sign and adhere to a Written Agreement and Safety plan, should I sign?

Chelsea  Harris
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Written agreements and safety plans are intended to provide clarity about the way that the Local Authority and your family will work together to ensure that your children remain safe whilst in your care. A safety plan is usually a personalised document...

Special Guardianship Order and Care Order - Can they Co-Exist?

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In the recent case of F v G [2021] EWCA Civ 622, The Court of Appeal granted leave to appeal to the mother, who argued that Special Guardianship Orders and Care Orders could not co-exist. This case was in relation to twin girls F and G. Prior to their...

Independent research recommends Care Services are in urgent need of investment and reform.

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The Case for Change, an Independent Review of Children’s Social Care Report investigated Child Protection Services in England. According to a BBC News article written by Alison Holt Social Affairs Correspondent (June 2021) the system is under...

I have been told by the social worker that my care of my child has to be supervised. What does this mean?

Jasmine Lees
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Where the Local Authority have concerns about a person’s care of a child, they may commission various assessments of the person’s ability to care for them. The concerns may arise as a result of an injury to the child, the carer’s mental...

My child is in care and I want more contact

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Local Authorities have a duty to promote contact between a child in their care and the relevant parties under Section 34 of the Children Act 1989 – unless it is not reasonably practical or consistent with the child’s welfare. If your child is...

What do Social Services mean when they say my child is at risk of harm?

Chelsea  Harris
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There are 4 main types of Harm that the Social Services may think your child is at risk of suffering or is already suffering. These 4 types are: Emotional harm, Physical harm, Sexual harm and Neglect. Your child can be referred to Social Services through a...

Will my baby be removed from me at birth?

Jasmine Lees
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A recent study by Nuffield Family Justice Observatory found that the number of care proceedings in England which involved newborn babies increased by 20%. Between 2012 and 2020, the number of newborn babies subject to care proceedings rose from 2425 to...

Does the Human Rights Act 1998 protect parents in Care Proceedings

Chelsea  Harris
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The protection of your Human Rights is vital in all aspects of the Law. Article 8 of the Human Rights Act provides that everyone has the right to respect for private and family life. How is this right maintained in Care Proceedings for parents where the...

What will happen if I run away with my child to avoid Social Services involvement?

Jasmine Lees
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When the Local Authority become involved due to concerns regarding a parent’s care of a child / children , it can be a very challenging time for the family. Many people feel that they wish to escape so that they do not have to deal with any...

The Local Authority has applied to the Court for a Care Order - but what is it?

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What is a Care Order in my Care Proceedings case? A care order gives the local authority parental responsibility for the child . The court may make an interim care order so that arrangements can be made to look after the child until the court makes a...

Special Guardianship - An Agenda for Change

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In August and November 2019, I wrote articles considering whether Special Guardianship Orders required reform. The case of Re P-S (Children) [2018] EWCA Civ 1407  spurred the need for change. Developments continue within this area of law....

Care Proceedings are lasting longer in Court due to COVID-19

Chelsea  Harris
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The duration of Care Proceedings in Court has increased since the beginning of the lockdown and has reached the longest length since the 26-week target rule was introduced in 2014, despite the number of cases being issued falling in 2019. Care Proceedings...

I have been asked to leave my family home away from partner and children by Social Services - what does this mean?

Jasmine Lees
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When the Local Authority have safeguarding concerns about a person within a household, they may ask them to leave the family home away from the children and other adults within the home to allow for various safeguarding assessments to be completed. The Local...

What is an Investigation in children matters? What types of investigations are there?

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There are two types of investigations, a Section 47 investigation, and a Section 17 investigation. Within 24 hours of suspected harm being reported it is the Social Workers decision in regards to what investigation is required. They will decide one of...

Social Services have asked me to leave the family home

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What can I do in these circumstances? Parents often ask this question when seeking advice from our Care Team: When Social Services become involved with parents in relation to concerns about their child, they sometimes ask one parent to leave the family...

The Local Authority want to complete a Risk Assessment, what does this mean?

Chelsea  Harris
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The Local Authority are likely to want to complete a risk assessment where they consider there to be a likelihood of a significant risk of harm to a child. Where there are concerns around domestic violence in a relationship, allegations of sexual or physical...

What happens if do not want to care for my baby / child anymore?

Jasmine Lees
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The Local Authority (also known as Social Services) often become involved with families where there are concerns about the care being afforded to any child within a home. However, sometimes the Local Authority are approached by parents who feel that they are...

Received a letter from Social Services/Local Authority? What do I do?

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The Local Authority can become involved in your family life for a number of reasons. This may be because they think you or someone else in your family may have done something to harm the child/children. They can also become involved even if you do not give...

Will I get free legal advice if the Local Authority become involved with my family?

Chelsea  Harris
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Depending upon the extent of the involvement by the Local Authority, you may be eligible for free legal help under three levels of public funding Legal Help Level 1, Legal Help Level 2 or Full Representation. The lowest level of Local Authority involvement...

Am I allowed to physical chastise my child such as smacking them?

Jasmine Lees
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The issue of smacking a child as a form of punishment or as a way to control a child’s behaviour is a contentious subject which divides public opinion. The issue has recently hit the headlines after Scotland introduced a law banning the smacking of...

Local Authority concerns about drug and alcohol use around children

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The Local Authority have concerns about drug use and excessive use of alcohol around my children – what should I do? Worried family members, professionals or members of the public may notify the Local Authority of concerns about parents or carers...

According to Ofsted, there has been a 20% rise of non-accidental- injuries and deaths to babies during the first Covid 19 lockdown

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During the first lockdown due to Covid-19  in March 2020, there was an alarming rise of 20% of accidental injuries in children under 12 months old. According to Ofsted, these children were either seriously injured or killed by a parent/carer. In...

Remote Hearings in the Family Justice System: A review of the Rapid Consultation by the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory.

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It goes without saying that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact in virtually every aspect of our lives.  Arguably, one of the most significant changes for us at Johnson Astills, and for our clients, is that court hearings for Family and...

Can my information be shared between my Care Proceedings and Criminal Proceedings?

Chelsea  Harris
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The simple answer is yes. Your information can be disclosed and shared between proceedings governed by the 2013 protocol and good practice model . In Care Proceedings, there is a form Annex D that the Local Authority will complete and send to the police to...

How am I meant to engage and follow a remote / hybrid Family Court hearing?

Jasmine Lees
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Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, Family Court hearings moved to remote hearings which take place over the telephone or via a video platform to allow for social distancing restrictions. Initially, all major hearings such as final...

The impact Covid19 (Coronavirus) and contact with children in care?

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Legal practitioners in the field of childcare law will be aware that Covid-19 epidemic has significantly challenged the family justice system. This article covers the issues around contact with a child in care and the legal principles, which govern it. The...

What Happens in Care Proceedings?

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Care Proceedings begin when the Local Authority believe that your children have suffered or may be at risk of harm. The Local Authority will ask the Court to look at your situation and decide if the Local Authority should be granted a legal Order to...

Human Rights - How they protect children and parents in care proceedings

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A person’s human rights are protected under the Human Rights Act 1998 and the European Convention on Human Rights. The protection of a person’s human rights is paramount in all aspects of law, and this is of high significance in Care...

More Family Court Cases to be Reported

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The President of the Family Division has issued guidance on Transparency in Family Courts published on 16/1/14 to ‘immediately and significantly’ change the way cases are reported. There have been criticisms that the family courts are too secret...

New Changes to s.38 (6) assessments and the creation of s.38 (7A) and (7B) test.

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The President, Sir J Munby has issued new guidance in relation to s.38(6) assessments and the recent decisions and indications relating to the reforms are important in gaining an understanding as to their implementation and practical effect in the cases...

Get help from Social Services with your housing

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Social services may have to help if you are homeless and you come under one of the following criteria; you are under 18 you are leaving care or you’re under 21 and have previously been in care you are an elderly person you have physical or mental...

Opposing an Adoption Order

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Adoption applications are made for children by prospective adopters after care proceedings. Birth parents think this is the “be all and end all” for their children and they cannot oppose an adoption application. This is not the case. Once a...

When are Parents eligible for Legal Aid in Children Act cases?

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In recent months, many parents have found themselves in a position where they have been denied legal aid. In the recent case of D (A Child) [2014] EWFC 39, Sir James Munby, the President of the Family Division said that there are only certain proceedings...

Child Exploitation

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The national action plan for tackling child sexual exploitation, published on 23 November 2011, brings together for the first time actions by the Government and a range of national and local partners to protect children from this largely hidden form of...

January 2012 - Highest number of Care Order applications recorded

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CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Services) reported last week that in the month of January 2012 Local Authorities in the UK have made 903 applications to the court for Care Orders in relation to children who they believe to be at risk...

Children and young people being given a chance to express their views on the Family Justice System

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The law relating to children is contained primarily in The Children Act 1989 which came into force on 14 th  October 1991. The Act introduced dramatic changes in the law relating to children in that public law (matters with social services involvement)...

Important Cases in Child Care Proceedings

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Recent cases in the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court have looked at the way the issue of non-consensual adoption should be considered by the Courts. The first of these important judgments was given in Re B. (Re B (A Child) [2013] UKSC 33) The Supreme...

Are Local Authority Children's Services meeting the needs of families and their children?

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Ofsted released their first Social Care Annual Report for 2012/13 on the 15th October 2013 which identified that 1 in 7 Local Authorities has been reported to be ‘inadequate’ and some child safeguarding services are struggling to meet even...

President of the Family Courts calls for more transparency in family courts

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Given the need to protect the children involved in family proceedings, hearings are held in private and journalists are not allowed in. Judgments can be publicised with names kept anonymous; it is the facts of the case the legal argument and the...