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What should I do if I am asked to consent to a s20 agreement?
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 are at risk of significant harm, they may ask you to consent to a s20 arrangement.
A s20 arrangement allows a child to be voluntarily accommodated, for example in Local Authority foster care or with friends or other family members. S20 agreements do not have time limits, however they should not be used as long-term solutions where there are safeguarding concerns. This means that even if you do consent to a s20 agreement, the case may still go to Court.
Should I consent to s20 agreement?
It is very important for parents to understand that if they choose to consent to a s20 agreement, they can withdraw their consent at any time.
When gaining consent, the Local Authority must seek that from both parents, if they both have Parental Responsibility (PR.) In cases where a father has PR but his consent cannot be obtained, a mother’s consent is sufficient.
The agreement is entirely voluntary, and parents retain PR. The Local Authority does not acquire PR under a s20 agreement. This means that they cannot make important decisions for your child without your knowledge and consent.
Parents must be aware that their consent to a s20 agreement is only valid if it is properly informed and fairly obtained. This means that consent cannot be valid if you do not fully understand the need for and consequences of a s20. It is very important to seek legal advice if you are asked to consent to a s20 agreement.
What will happen after I consent to a s20 agreement?
Many parents worry that if they consent to a s20 agreement, their children will be removed from their care permanently. However, parents or carers with PR must continue to be kept informed of and consulted about all aspects of the child’s life. S20(6) of the Children Act 1989 states that the LA must ascertain the children’s wishes and feelings, where possible, as well as parents.
Parents would still be able to attend important events in a child’s life for example medical appointments.
If the safeguarding issues are not resolved whist a child is voluntarily accommodated, the case may then go to Court. This may be to apply for an interim care or supervision order, for example. Again, it is very important to remember that even if these orders are granted, it does not mean the children will be removed from their parents/carers long-term.
When deciding whether or not to consent to a s20 agreement, parents / carers should take their time to consider all factors. Parents must consider the possibility that if they do not agree to a s20, their children may be removed from their care under an Emergency Protection Order or an urgent application for an Interim Care Order. This would depend on the extent of the safeguarding concerns and further information on this matter can be found in the following article on the Johnson Astills website: https://www.johnsonastills.com/site/blog/child-care-issues-social-service-blog/care-order-what-is-it
We understand that the Local Authority being involved with your children can be very stressful and that is why we are here to help and provide advice. We have experience in assisting parents at all stages of Local Authority involvement. Please contact Johnson Astills at either our Leicester Office on 0116 255 4855 or our Loughborough Office on 01509 610 312 and ask for a member of the Care Team so that we can advise you accordingly. Alternatively, please email us on email@example.com and a member of our team will be happy to assist you.