What does ‘section 20’ mean? And when should it be used?

Basically,  section 20 of the Children Act 1989  is about the LA’s duty to provide a child with somewhere to live because the child doesn’t currently have a home, or a safe home:

  • there isn’t anyone who has parental responsibility for him (for e.g. an asylum seeking child who has come to the UK on his own);
  • the child has been lost or abandoned;
  • the person who has been caring for the child can’t provide him with a suitable home, whatever the reason for this and regardless of whether this is short term or long term problem.

It is a very important section with regard to care proceedings, because it often happens that a local authority (LA) will ask parents to sign a ‘section 20 agreement’. This means the parents are agreeing to let their children live somewhere else, usually in LA foster care, while the LA carries out more investigations or the parents get some time to sort themselves out (‘respite care’).

The child is therefore out of the parents’  care without the need for the LA to go to court and get the Judge to make a care order. Because the court is not involved to oversee this, it’s very important that section 20 agreements are used properly and don’t become a way of letting the case drift on without proper consideration or getting a care order ‘by the back door’.

We discuss these issues further below. We will examine:

  • What is the impact of section 20
  • What have the courts said about the requirements of section 20
  • When it goes wrong
  • What you can do if its going wrong

On 24th February 2016 the Transparency Project published Guidance for parents and professionals about the use of section 20, which you can download here.

There has been some controversy about ‘foster to adopt’ placements where section 20 is used to put a child in such a placement before the matter gets to court. You can read more about this, and the report of the Family Rights Group here. 

 

Impact of section 20: the BIG difference between section 20 and a care order – the LA does NOT have parental responsibility

  • Section 20 accommodation is very different to your child being removed from your care against your will under a care order. The LA do NOT share parental responsibility for your child just because you have agreed that your child should be in foster care under a section 20 agreement.
  • Under section 20(8) any person who has parental responsibility can remove the child from LA accommodation at any time unless there are objections to this by someone who has a child arrangements order to say the child lives with him/her (what used to be called a ‘residence order’), a special guardianship order or has care of the child by a special order of the High Court.
  • Section 20(4) says that the LA may provide accommodation for any child in their area, even if the child has a parent who is able to provide accommodation, if the LA thinks that they need to do this to keep the child safe.
  • Section 20(7) provides that the LA cannot provide accommodation for a child if there is someone who has parental responsibility for the child and objects to the LA providing the accommodation.

So if the parents won’t agree to section 20 accommodation, their child can only be removed by court order or by the intervention of the police using their special powers.

Problems have arisen when parents feel they have been ‘rushed’ or even bullied into making a decision to agree to let their children be accommodated under section 20. Sometimes, LA get consent from only one parent but the other objects. A LA should always try to get the consent of everyone who has parental responsibility.

 

What do the courts say? Section 20 is only lawful if the following requirements are met.

A very important case when considering how section 20 should work is the case of Coventry City Council v C, B, CA and CH [2012]. This should be read together with the case of Williams and Another v London Borough of Hackney [2015]. See also the case of Medway Council v M and T [2015] which appears to be the highest amount of compensation paid for unlawful use of section 20 – £20K to both mother AND child.

In the Coventry case, Mr Justice Hedley gave guidance about what should happen if a LA want to remove a baby immediately or soon after birth – it can be appropriate to use section 20 in these circumstances but obviously it is vital to make sure the parents understand what is being proposed and give real consent. The Hackney case concerned a section 20 agreement that had been signed under duress and without the parents understanding what they were signing. Both cases provide important general guidance to follow in all section 20 cases.

EDIT 26th January 2017the Hackney case was overturned on appeal in December 2016. The case involved parents of 9 children who were taken into foster care in 2007 after the police intervened saying the home conditions were not suitable for the children to live in. Thereafter the parents pursued action against the local authority, saying it had acted unlawfully by taking the children into foster care under section 20 of the Children Act. In 2015 the court decided Hackney was in breach of its statutory duty and awarded the parents £10,000 each. In addition, Hackney was ordered to pay 75% of their costs. Hackney appealed.

The Court of Appeal agreed with Hackney and pointed out that the word ‘consent’ does not appear in section 20  – the relevant word is ‘objects’. At the time the children were accommodated pursuant to section 20, the parents were subject to bail conditions that prevented them from providing suitable accommodation for their children. Their consent was not required in these circumstances. There was no breach of the HRA and damages should not have been awarded.

However the Court of Appeal stated that guidance from other cases about issues of ‘consent’ was still relevant.

Summary of legal principles from the case law 

  • Parents must give valid consent to section 20 accommodation; their agreement must be ‘real’ – but note Court of Appeal decision in Hackney where the parents were subject to bail conditions that meant they were prevented from offering a home to their children. Consent was not an issue in these circumstances. If parents are prevented from ‘objecting’ to section 20 accommodation this may be enough to make it lawful.
  • The parents must understand what they are agreeing to; they must have ‘capacity’
  • The parents must have all the relevant information
  • Removing a child under section 20 must be fair and proportionate
  • Parents must be told they have a right to take legal advice
  • Parents must be told they have a right to withdraw their consent

 

These principles are dealt with in more detail below.

Agreement must be real – parents must give valid consent to section 20 accommodation

  • Every parent who has capacity has the right to give consent under section 20 to have their child accommodated by a LA (for a discussion of what is meant by ‘capacity’ see our post on the Mental Health Act 2005);
  • Every LA has the power to accommodate a child, if to do so is consistent with the child’s welfare.

The parent giving consent must have capacity – they must understand what they are agreeing to

  • every social worker obtaining a parent’s consent is under a personal duty to be satisfied that the person giving consent has the capacity to do so;
  • The social worker must actively consider the issue of capacity and consider the questions raised by the Mental Capacity Act 2005 at section 3 and in particular the person’s capacity to use and weigh all the relevant information;
  • If the social worker has doubts that the person has capacity they should stop trying to obtain consent and seek advice from the Team Leader or Management.

The parent must have all the relevant information to be able to agree

If the social worker is satisfied the parent is able to agree, the next question is whether the consent is ‘fully informed’. Does the parent:

    • understand the consequences of consent or refusal?;
    • appreciate the full range of choices available?
    • know about all the relevant facts?

If the social worker is not satisfied the parent is ‘fully informed’ again, no further attempts should be made to obtain consent and further advice should be sought, including legal advice if necessary.

The decision regarding section 20 accommodation must be fair and proportionate

  • If the consent is considered to be fully informed, the social worker must then be satisfied that the giving of such consent and subsequent removal of the child is fair and proportionate.
  • To answer that question, the social worker should consider the current physical and psychological state of the parent, whether or not they have a lawyer, or have been encouraged to seek legal advice, whether it is necessary for the child’s safety to be removed at this time or whether it would be fairer to seek a care order from the court.

The parents must be told they have a right to legal advice and can withdraw their consent at any time.

See para 65 of the Hackney judgment:  a section 20 agreement HAS to convey that the parents have the right to withdraw their consent. He also sets out that the parent needs to be told of their right to take legal advice. Otherwise their apparent ‘consent’ to section 20 may be no consent in reality.

When it goes wrong

The parents didn’t understand what was going on

For a case that went badly wrong, when the LA did not make sure the parents were supported to understand what was going on, see the case of H (A Child – Breach of Convention Rights: Damages) [2014]. The parents were awarded damages of £6,000 for breach of their human rights in a case that drifted due to unacceptable use of section 20 accommodation.

The court had real doubts about the reality of the parents’ consent in the case of P (A Child: Use of section 20) [2014] EWFC 775. The Judge commented at paragraph 32:

Finally, I would also add that on my assessment of the undisputed facts in this case there is real doubt as to whether [the LA] had proper consent from the parents to the accommodation of P after he was removed from the PGF. In the first statement filed by the [LA] there is an acknowledgement that the parents did not want P to be placed in foster care after he had been placed with the PGF. The author of the statement comments that in spite of this knowledge once he was moved to foster carers the parents did nothing to come and get him – as if the responsibility was somehow theirs. These parents go everywhere with an advocate. They are vulnerable young people. It is the responsibility of the local authority to ensure that they give proper consent. Unless they abandon their child, they do not give consent by omission. I should add that they have never abandoned him.

When it starts ‘drifting’: Judicial Warning

Sometimes, when a child is in foster care under section 20, that has lead to unacceptable drift and delay in making decisions about the child’s long term future. In the case of H (A Child – Breach of Convention Rights: Damages) it took the LA nearly a year to issue proceedings, while the child was in section 20 accommodation,  a delay that the court decided was both ‘unjustified’ and ‘inexcusable’. Also, the LA did not take enough care to ensure the parents understood what was going on. The parents were awarded £6,000 each for breach of their human rights.

On 26th November 2014 the Designated Family Judge for Avon, North Somerset and Gloucestershire issued the following warning about the use of section 20:

Misuse of accommodation under section 20 of The Children Act 1989

1. There have been several recent instances in this area where it is quite apparent that accommodation of children under Section 20 of The Children Act 1989 has continued in an unstructured way for excessive periods of time and in circumstances where proceedings are either inevitable or otherwise highly likely to be issued. I regard such accommodation in those circumstances to be unprincipled and wrong. Further, where this occurs, it leads to unjustifiable delays in the completion of arrangements for the child concerned.

2. I refer, in particular, to the decision of Hedley J in Re CA (A baby) [2012] EWHC 2190 in which guidance is given about the use of accommodation under that section. It includes guidance that the Local Authority should consider: ‘Would it be fairer in this case for this matter to be the subject of a court order rather than an agreement’. That question should be read as if the word ‘fairer’ were to be expanded so that the question reads: ‘Would it be fairer and in the better interests of the child in this case for this matter to be the subject of a court order rather than an agreement?’ It is not in the interests of a child for accommodation to be used in the unstructured way that I have described in paragraph one above.

3. Therefore, in any cases before District Judges or Magistrates in this area where there is any significant suggestion that accommodation under section 20 has been misused in the manner that I have described, the case should be listed before a Circuit Judge following the Case Management Hearing. Circuit Judges are encouraged to give judgments on any such issues that arise before them on referral or on a CMH listed before them. Where possible and appropriate, the judgments should be placed on Bailii in accordance with the transparency provisions. I consider it to be in the public interest that any such misuse of accommodation under that section should be made public.

HHJ Wildblood QC – 26th November 2014.

In the case of P (A Child: Use of section 20) [2014] EWFC 775, the child had been in section 20 accommodation for 2 years whilst the case drifted. Then there were enormous problems in getting another LA to agree to help the parents with housing. The Judge commented at para 30:

It goes without saying that it is totally inappropriate for a local authority to hold a child in s. 20 accommodation for 2 years without a plan. That is what happened here. The local authority has “disabled” these parents from being able to parent their child with every day of inactivity that has passed. The driver for the issue of proceedings was the parents’ lawyers making clear that they did not give their consent. To its credit LBR, during the hearings before me, has accepted its errors in this regard and has tried to make good but there needs to be a careful examination internally of how it was this family was treated in this way.

In these situations it is the local authority that holds all of the power. I think it likely the mother was told that if she did not agree to P’s accommodation then the LBR would issue proceedings. Parents are unlikely to want to drive the local authority to issue proceedings and so the vulnerable are left almost powerless to object. Meanwhile the child is “parked” and the local authority is under no pressure or scrutiny to ensure that it is dealing with the case in an appropriate and timely fashion. In my capacity as DFJ for East London I warn that there will be nowhere to hide for those authorities in this designated family area who fail the children in their borough in this way.

There was further serious criticism about the misuse of section 20 in the case of A (A Child) in 2015 where the President of the Family Division stated at paragraph 99 of his judgment:

Quite apart from all the other serious failures, the delay in this case was shocking. A was born on 11 January 2014. There had – appropriately and commendably – been much pre-birth planning. Yet it was not until 16 September 2014 that the care proceedings were issued. This delay is, to all intents and purposes, unexplained. The gap was covered by the local authority’s use of section 20 in a way which was a misuse, indeed, in my judgment, an abuse, of the provision.

There is, I fear, far too much misuse and abuse of section 20 and this can no longer be tolerated. I draw attention to the extremely critical comments of the Court of Appeal in Re W (Children) [2014] EWCA Civ 1065, as also to the recent decision of Keehan J in Northamptonshire County Council v AS and Ors [2015] EWHC 199 (Fam).

Unfortunately, its still going wrong. HHJ Wildblood QC identified what had gone awry in Bristol City Council v S [2015]

  • The circumstances of the children were allowed to drift in the pre-proceedings stage and the use of section 20 of the Children Act 1989 was too prolonged.
  • The absence of a meeting of professionals from the Local Authority’s Children’s and Adults’ Services in the early stages of the Local Authority’s intervention.
  • A lack of understanding of The Care Act 2014.
  • There were inadequate assessments of the mother in the pre-proceedings stage. If there was insufficient information available to the local authority for it to formulate a satisfactory care plan at that stage a proper and full psychiatric assessment of the mother should have taken place within the pre-proceedings stage. It should not have been left to the time of the proceedings.
  • The apparent lack of information held by Dr. S as to exactly what has been provided to the mother by way of therapy within the community.

 

It’s going wrong and you don’t agree to section 20 anymore

If you don’t want your child in foster care any more then you can stop agreeing at any time. BUT this may mean that if the LA aren’t happy with you taking your child home, they may want to try to stop you.

To do this lawfully, there are only two options:

  • The LA try to persuade the police to exercise their powers to take a child to a place of safety for up to 72 hours;
  • OR the LA will have to apply to court for an order.

If they think the situation is urgent they might apply for an Emergency Protection Order. See our post on interim removals.

In some situations, parents might be better off if there was an application for a care order – this will ensure the matter is now subject to a strict court timetable and a judge will be in charge of making decisions. Being involved in care proceedings will also mean parents can get free legal advice and representation.

The LA want me to sign a ‘written agreement’.

Often section 20 agreements go hand in hand with other written agreements; for example, setting out what the LA would like the parents to do or stop doing, while their child is in foster care. These documents don’t have any specific legal force but they are often relied on in evidence in later care proceedings to show how co-operative (or un co-operative) the parents have been and therefore, how much they can be relied on in the future.

Written agreements should not be used to get care orders ‘by the back door’. See the case of Re W [2014] for discussion about this. Also, read this blog post by suesspicious minds for further consideration about written agreements and their consequences.

His advice to parents is:

  • Don’t sign one unless you understand every single bit, and you’ve been told clearly what will happen if you don’t stick to it;
  • If you have a lawyer, you should ask for legal advice BEFORE you sign it. If you don’t have a lawyer, say that you want the Local Authority to hold a Meeting Before Action, so that you can have free legal advice about the agreement;
  • If you think that something isn’t fair, say so;
  • If you’re willing to do what is being asked, but you want help, ask for that help to be identified and put in the agreement;
  • Never ever sign a written agreement if you don’t intend to stick to it – your position is made worse by signing it and not doing it than by not signing it.

 

 

Section 20 – other issues

Watch out for section 22 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002

There can be serious consequences flowing from section 20 accommodation and parents need to be aware of these. In particular, parents will need to bear in mind section 22 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 which states that if a LA is providing accommodation for a child, the LA MUST apply for a placement order if :

  • they think the conditions of section 31 of the Children Act are met (significant harm);
  • and they are satisfied the child ought to be placed for adoption.

See further LB v London Borough of Merton [2013] EWCA Civ 476.

See further discussions at The Transparency Project about the ‘foster to adopt’ controversy, where parents may agree to place babies in such a placement, under section 20, therefore without the oversight of the court.

 

Review and monitoring of section 20 accommodation.

Under the Review of Children’s Cases Regulations the LA must appoint an Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) to carry out the functions in section 26(2A) of the Children Act 1989;

  • participating in the review of the case in question;
  • monitoring the performance of the LA’s functions in respect of the review;
  • referring the case to Cafcass, if the IRO thinks it is appropriate.

Every case must be reviewed within 4 weeks of the child being provided with accommodation and a second review must follow after that within 3 months. After this second review, the reviews must be at least every six months. The LA should be considering whether or not the child can go home at these review meetings.

The IRO is under a duty to:

  • make sure that the child’s views are understood and taken into account;
  • to identify who is responsible for making sure decisions taken in the review get acted upon;
  • inform senior management at the LA if reviews are not properly carried out;
  • to assist the child to obtain legal advice; or
  • to find out whether an appropriate adult is able and willing to provide such assistance or bring the proceedings on the child’s behalf.

 

Making parents pay for section 20 accommodation?

For consideration of the very odd situation outlined by Schedule 2 of the Children Act, see this excellent blog post by suesspicious minds.  Such charges can’t be imposed on any parent who is receiving state benefits and they don’t apply to any child subject to a care order.

The Schedule reads:

Schedule 2 para 21. —(1) Where a local authority are looking after a child (other than in the cases mentioned in sub-paragraph(7)) they shall consider whether they should recover contributions towards the child’s maintenance from any person liable to contribute (“a contributor”)

Parents on bail: condition not to contact their children

The court initially stated in  Williams and Another v the London Borough of Hackney [2015] that the LA should still get informed consent to section 20 accommodation, even when the parents were subject to bail conditions that meant they could not have unsupervised contact with their children. This was overturned by the Court of Appeal who pointed out that the statute uses the word ‘object’ not ‘consent’ and the parents clearly couldn’t ‘object’ to the LA providing their children with accommodation, when they were prevented by their bail conditions from giving them a home.  See discussions above.

 

Further reading

58 thoughts on “What does ‘section 20’ mean? And when should it be used?

  1. Philip Measures

    I would also add that people need to be clear that Sec. 20 is ‘accommodation’ rather than ‘Care’ – although the child or young person is always regarded as being ‘looked after’ by the Local Authority. The statutory Review processes will also be used.

    The biggest issue is whether parents / those with ‘parental responsibility’ feel that Sec. 20 accommodation is used without them feeling to be under any pressure to agree – such as feeling that if they don’t agree Care Proceedings will be used and so Sec. 20 is the lesser of the 2 ‘evils.’

    It should rarely be used in an emergency and where parents are feeling emotionally vulnerable.

    I really believe that all forms of substitute care should receive the same degrees of investigation and analysis – ideally a minimum of a completed Core Assessment with input from other involved agencies.

    Reply
  2. phillimoresarah Post author

    Thanks for those comments. They are very helpful and we agree. We will make some amendments to the post to clarify that position.

    Reply
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  4. Pingback: section 20 drift | suesspiciousminds

  5. kim jones

    I found it interesting to learn what the correct procedures are,
    My daughter was taken illegally,by the “back door method” or KIDNAPPED.
    no court order,no section 20.no agreement,nothing.In fact I was not even KNOWN to SS or the L/A police removed my daughter when she was 11 yrs old.She is 14 yrs now.Im not allowed to see her,Ive done nothing wrong.

    Reply
  6. sam

    Kim
    Are you saying there is still no court order? Has you daughter been placed in foster care or with a family member?

    Reply
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  9. andrea hopkins

    A very helpful article. But under the section “watch out for s22 ACA” I think it would be helpful to add in s22(1)(d) ” and the LA is satisfied that the child ought to be placed for adoption” otherwise it sounds as though the LA is obliged to apply for a placement order for every s20 accommodated child if the threshold is made out.

    Reply
  10. Pingback: Article 3 ECHR and Care Proceedings | Child Protection Resource

  11. Penni

    I was forced to sign a section 20 and it stated that my son was then in care for 26 weeks and supervised contact is this fair legal ethical thanks

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Are you sure it was section 20? Reference to the 26 week timetable makes me think it might be an interim care order??

      If it was section 20, the fact that you were ‘forced’ to sign it is very bad practice. Section 20 is meant to be an entirely voluntary agreement between parents and LA and you can withdraw your agreement any time you want and ask for your child to be returned. The LA then have to return your child home OR apply to the court for a care order. Anything else is unlawful and must be challenged asap.

      Reply
      1. Penni

        They refused to discuss it in court and I now deal directly with head of children’s services who seems to be trying to help but I’m taking it back to court and if it’s not a section 20 I need to find out what it really is! Coz I’m going all out to prove they lied and basically stole my child while going through an ectopic pregnancy

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          If you were in court I assuming it must have been care proceedings. Where was your lawyer? Why wasn’t he/she explaining things to you? They can’t just ‘refuse to discuss’ this in court. You need to understand what is going on urgently.

          Reply
          1. Penni

            Well what my solicitor thought I think he missed a lot to be honest the court looked the other way when the s.w admitted to slating me to my son and also not using framework filling out his reports a week after meetings etc. I know I can be a pain but they treat me like um stupid so when I point out the lies etc and explain what they are doing wrong they then limit contact refuse to allow me to attend meetings and I’m slightly irritated by their ways so now deal with the top one and I’m optimistic.

      2. Penni

        An interim care order is given by the courts and they hadn’t said it was going to court at that point. When I told the head of children’s services what I had been made to sign she said it didn’t sound like a section 20?? So still no closer to knowing what it was.

        Reply
        1. Sam

          Penni
          If you are still in court you need to raise this with your solicitor if you haven’t already. The Manager knows full well what you signed as she will of course have a copy of it, but will just try and string you along as they have probably done something they shouldn’t have done and will be liable to pay you compensation under the Human Rights Act. If you did not get a copy of the two documents you signed ask for copies now.

          Reply
          1. Penni

            It’s been to court he is in long term care and I’m getting no answers… Still. They refuse to up my contact and when I ask why they have no answer they haven’t given me anything as to what I can do no timescales nothing I now deal with the head of children’s services who seems pretty appalled by this. I have asked what can I do to get him back they say he’s not coming back. For the record he had full school attendance perfectly healthy good social life polite clean etc and I don’t drink or do drugs never hurt him in any way when it happened I was in hospital (ectopic pregnancy) but homeless temporarily as was moving into a new place which they knew about.

          2. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            If you are not getting any answers, then apply to court to discharge the care order – if that is what is in place. I think it must be if it went to court.

  12. Penni

    When I was in hospital I signed a handwritten section 20 and when I came out they made me sign an official one which they didn’t explain anything and basically I signed my son away without knowing what I had done and they refuse to answer any questions how can I get to the truth and get my son back??

    Reply
    1. ian josephs

      PenniForget the section 20 because if there is now an interim care order that has replaced it and unlike the section 20 has in effect given parental rights to the local authority.,Usually there is some other issue like domestic violence, drug use, or a damning report on your mental state from a court appointed psychologist or psychiatrist that they give out in court to justify their threshold and consequent interim care order; Go back to court yourself after finding out if there are issues like the above and if none apply for contact and apply separately for discharge of the care order on the grounds that the threshold (showing harm or risk of harm) was never met. It sounds as though your solicitor did not fight for you or at least did not explain why you lost your child so fill in the forms yourself at the court as best you can and ask the court if there are legal words on the form that you do not understand;

      Reply
  13. Sam

    Penni No they should not have put pressure on you in hospital. If you were having pain relief that may have made you dopey or had just come out of an anaesthetic they definitely should have not got you to sign anything. Section 20 is supposed to be informed consent , including the fact that it is voluntary, so you don’t have to sign it . The local authority do not parental rights and you can ask for your child back at any time.

    Reply
  14. Penni

    Ian I think the point is if it wasn’t a section 20 what was it and more importantly if it wasn’t a section 20 they stole my son I need to know so I can use that in court as well.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      The only way a child can be removed from the care of a parent is a) if that parent consents (section 20), by order of the court – care order – or by the police exercising their powers under section 46 of the Children Act. But police removal can only be for 72 hours, so that isn’t what happened here.

      If there is only section 20 in place, you can withdraw your consent at any time. If its a care order, you will have to apply to discharge it. But if your child has been out of your care for a long time, you may not have much chance.

      Reply
  15. angelo granda

    When the social worker visited you in hospital,Penni, he or she was obliged under legal frameworks ( Children’s Act 2013) to inform you as to the availabilitt of advocacy services and advised you of your right to have one. Surely they dis so. They have to so it’s no good saying you do not understand what you signed.The advocate will have advised you of your rights.
    You did have an advocate, I presume.

    As Sarah says they are not allowed to force you to sign an S20. How could they? Please describe what happened. I don’t believe the average social worker would threaten or blackmail you, perhaps by saying they would teke your baby for adoption. Please don’t tell me they did.
    My guess is they just suggested you ought to cooperate and they were taking the baby away temporarily for his own protection.
    Wha happened at the family conference? Why didn’t your Mum or another relative offer to look after the baby for you if they had concerns about you. I presume they arranged for a family conferece.They have to consider all alternatives to removal and give reasons for rejecting them. What reasons did they give?
    I am surprised they never offered to place you and the baby in a supervised mother and baby unit because they know how badly removal of babies from natural mothers affects their bonding and secure attachment.You must be really bad if they did not arrange for it at the pre-birth child-protection conference. How long before the birth was the conference held?.
    Women in prison are allowed to keep their new babie for 18 months.
    If they refused that to you. I can only think that you aren’t telling us everything.Are you sure you aren’t on drugs? What reason did they give you for taking the baby.

    Reply
  16. Penni

    My boy was 10 when I was in hospital on a drip (ectopic pregnancy) the s.w turned explained the section 20 just temporary care while in hospital hand wrote it out after I looked it up and had to sign it. When I came out of hospital he then gave me typed “section 20” to sign but didn’t tell me that it had changed to putting my boy in care for 26 weeks with supervised contact and when I went to pick him up from school was threatened with the police if I did. (and I may have the text he sent saying that) I have asked till I’m blue in the face why was this allowed to happen and getting nowhere the I.R.o was worse wouldn’t let me ask questions etc.and he stopped a contact when I was going to sign for my flat as he refused to change the day also had less time than the agreed time on the s.w say so. So I sound like I don’t trust them there’s your answer to me they are low down scum that abuse any power they think they have. Which is a pity because there is good social workers out there that get the fallback because of scummy ones.

    Reply
    1. angelo granda

      I am sorry,Penni,I misunderstood. I thought it was your baby that was taken.
      Now I know your child is 10, that is completely different!
      I suspect there is something very fishy about your case . Did they examine all alternatives to removal or not?
      Please note that if you start using terms like ‘scum’ , inferences will be taken on this resource and in court that you are the one at fault so be very careful.Stay absolutely calm and moderate or they will ask the court to send you to a psychologist. My advice is to ‘engage’ with a solicitor against the LA whilst doing everything possible to engage and cooperate with the CS. Make a clear statement that you acknowledge their concerns and that you are keen to work positively with the social worker towards your son’s return home.The statement should be in writing and submitted via your solicitor.
      Then just sit back and watch the CS reciprocate your goodwill!

      Assuming there is an ICO, ask your solicitor to appeal when it comes round for renewal IF YOU HAVE A RELATION he can live with temporarily. They should have looked at a family placement before applying for the order. Did they? The last thing I want to do is terrify the life out of you but life for children is not always dreamlike in care.
      Have they placed him well away from his roots?
      I repeat, engage with a lawyer and keep as calm as you are able.

      Reply
  17. Penni

    My boy is 100 miles away as we were in the process of moving when it happened and at present they keep saying he’s never coming back. I have had to call 5 meetings this year as they keep organising phone calls with him then they never happen I have to chase them up to find out what is going on they stopped me attending L.A.c reviews based on a 2 year old incident. I had been to many more meetings since then so was quite shocked when they decided I couldn’t attend etc it is continuous inadequate practice which rightly or wrongly feels personal. And yep I have a habit of finding things out and when they lie I tell them when they do things wrong I make sure they are aware as it is in my boys interest that it is done right. I have the paperwork for court but it is difficult to know what to put on it that a judge will actually take notice.

    Reply
  18. angelo granda

    From what you say, they have behaved appallingly but you have to realise that professionals will always give the Social Worker the benefit of any doubt. Little notice will be taken of you on your own. Judges prefer professional evidence.
    You need a lay advocate and an expert lawyer on your side.Have you got a solicitor? If not,you should engage with one asap.
    That’s all I can say really.

    Reply
  19. Penni

    I get that but because I work solicitors cost money and I can’t afford it so have to do it myself. I’m dealing with the head of children’s services now and she “seems appalled” at what has happened so maybe that will help.

    Reply
  20. jade jones

    Ian joseph.. you gave me advice on how to appeal against an adoption order which i am still doing but it is very difficult. Im awaiting a conclusion from london appeals office as to if my case will be accepted or declined.

    I was forced to sign section 20. As a disbetic i had a hypoglycaemic attack and post fot in a confused and not my normal state of mind i wad told i had to sign it hy the social worker otherwise i would never see my son again as he woulld be taken by the police at 10 weeks old. I was not told what a section 20 was and bare in mind i was made to sign this feb 2016 n have only now found out what one is to this extent. I had no idea that i could wothdraw it nor that i was to seek legal advice. I was well and truly fucked over by social and want to know who i get in touch woth about what i can do following this.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Please don’t get in touch with Ian Josephs. He will give you advice not to co-operate with anyone, to call social workers ‘scum’ etc, etc. No one will listen to you. If you are complaining about section 20 being wrongly used, there are now (sadly) quite a lot of cases where the courts have awarded damages for breach of human rights under the Human Rights Act 1998. I set out some information in this post:

      http://childprotectionresource.online/category/claims-under-human-rights-act-1998/

      You need to get a good solicitor to help you make a claim.

      Reply
  21. Sam

    Jade
    I am a parent like you, I cannot give you legal advice but Sarah ia a barrister, who runs this site may be able to help when she sees your post.
    You are in the right place to get help. You should not have been made to sign a section 20 while you were unwell and your solicitor should have told the judge this during the court case. If they didn’t you would be right to argue if they had not worked the best they could on your case.
    It may be a point that you need to put on your appeal.
    You will not find Ian Josephs on this site and you could find it more helpful to look at http://survivingsafeguarding.co.uk/

    Reply
  22. hilary Searing

    The Court of Appeal has given us a lot more information about the Hackney case. This shows that what went wrong was linked with the new model of practice ‘Reclaiming Social Work’. Some social workers have been misreading the law – by thinking that the ‘no order’ principle means they should never go to court unless it’s absolutely necessary. This can lead to a lack of balance in decision-making and might explain the huge variations in practice between different authorities. I have written about the Hackney case in: Our Duty of Care to Children http://radical.org.uk/barefoot/dutycare.htm

    Reply
  23. Anonymious

    Hi my children are under a section 20 the LA have been turned down by court for an ico and and epo the case is now at an issue ressalution hearing.

    How long does a section 20 last for and when would i get my boys back.

    Reply
    1. HelenSparkles

      Section 20 means that a child is being look after by the local authority with the agreement of those with parental responsibility. Agreement can be withdrawn at any time so Section 20 has no time duration as such. it is unsettling for children if things change suddenly, so you might want to think about that in the context of your case, giving a bit of warning is generally better for them – but you don’t have to.

      I am wondering if you are not the only person with PR and someone else has agreed to Section 20. I am also wondering if the court didn’t grant an order on the basis that you had agreed Section 20, whic means the LA might return to court to make an application for an ICO if consent is withdrawn.

      Reply
      1. Sam

        Just to note,even if one parent does give consent, it is still unlawful to keep a child under section 20, which is supposed to be a voluntary agreement, if the other parent withdraws their consent( presuming they were asked in the first place) and that other parent can provide suitable accommodation. Children cannot just be taken by Childrens Services , without a court order or freely given consent. The police can take them under a police protection order, but once again cannot take them without one.
        If you are in proceedings ,your solicitor should really be explaining to you what is happening.

        Reply
    2. HelenSparkles

      This is the Transparency Project’s guide to use of S20 which includes what happens if the people with PR don’t all agree to it. http://www.transparencyproject.org.uk/press/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/s20guidancefeb16.pdf

      Sam is quite right that SW cannot remove children without an order or the police. The police can use their powers of protection for 72 hours.

      I risk sounding pedantic but there is no police protection order, and I only mention it because an order is what the court grants, so I don’t want you to be confused if you are in care proceedings…

      Reply
      1. Angelo Granda

        Two questions if I may:
        1. Is the CS obliged to give parents a copy of the signed S20 ? I would think an agreement cannot be an agreement unless both signatories have a copy but I am not sure.
        2. A Police child-protection officer told a parent he was initiating a Police Protection ORDER under Section 46 of the Children Act. He said the order would need to be signed and authorised ( i.e. issued) by a Police Inspector. The parent was not shown the order prior to her children’s removal. The Social Worker’s took the children without seeing a copy either. This supports Helen’s belief that there is no such thing as a Police Protection Order. But can you see the SW’s and the Police contradict one another here? Police claim one has to be initiated, then signed and issued , parents who claim they never see one, SW’s who say there is no such thing.
        In the particular case I am talking about , the CS day sheets state that on the Friday night in question, after the children had been taken into care, the duty SW contacted the Police three times and asked for a copy of the ORDER. The sheets also record that at 11.15 p.m. the ORDER was faxed to the CS office. The Mum telephoned the Inspector who told her he had signed and issued an order and explained why.
        Maybe Sarah or a Policeman could help us here and explain.

        Reply
        1. HelenSparkles

          Found them now:
          Q1. Is the CS obliged to give parents a copy of the signed S20 ? I would think an agreement cannot be an agreement unless both signatories have a copy but I am not sure.
          A1. It is good practice both to have an agreement and both parties to have a copy.

          Q2. A Police child-protection officer told a parent he was initiating a Police Protection ORDER under Section 46 of the Children Act. He said the order would need to be signed and authorised ( i.e. issued) by a Police Inspector. The parent was not shown the order prior to her children’s removal. The Social Worker’s took the children without seeing a copy either. This supports Helen’s belief that there is no such thing as a Police Protection Order. But can you see the SW’s and the Police contradict one another here? Police claim one has to be initiated, then signed and issued , parents who claim they never see one, SW’s who say there is no such thing. In the particular case I am talking about , the CS day sheets state that on the Friday night in question, after the children had been taken into care, the duty SW contacted the Police three times and asked for a copy of the ORDER. The sheets also record that at 11.15 p.m. the ORDER was faxed to the CS office. The Mum telephoned the Inspector who told her he had signed and issued an order and explained why.
          Maybe Sarah or a Policeman could help us here and explain.
          A2. From a solicitor https://suesspiciousminds.com/tag/section-46-children-act/ “Section 46 of the Children Act allows for a police officer to remove a child from a parent (i.e without an order) for a period of up to 72 hours. [Most professionals call this removal under police protection a PPO , in echoes of an EPO, but it is not actually an Order]. The decision is made by a senior police officer, not the Court.” I would imagine the term is used & the police may call their paperwork an order.

          Reply
  24. Angelo Granda

    It is highly likely that the LA will be displeased that their case for EPO or IPO .I am only a parent like you not a professional adviser but the answer to your question is that all you have to do is contact the Local Authority and inform them you wish to rescind the S20 you signed then take them home after contact or ask the Social Worker to bring them home right now.
    I don’t know their ages but it is quite possible they have already been traumatised and emotionally disposed by removal and it sounds like there are no real grounds for it. I suggest that an immediate return may be in their paramount interests right now. Heaven knows what they are suffering in care and whilst there it is possible they will not feel at freedom to tell you all about it at contacts either. They are often too frightened or forbidden to do so. If very young ,they will not understand what is going on anyway just distraught like you.
    Whilst children are under an S20, sometimes rather than arranging support for you if you need it and without doing a full, impartial investigation ( including questioning you and checking over home conditions etc.) all they do is carry out a witch-hunt and amass scandal-mongering hearsay evidence, police intelligence and so on with the sole aim of ensuring they get the order next time. Plus, particularly with very young children, they interview them and gather false evidence from them with the offer of rewards or punishment.
    The LA can’t always be trusted to be impartial and if they have already been stymied by the Court ,well you can’t be sure.
    Do you know whether the Judge tuned down the orders because the children were already accommodated away from you under the S20 or if that was immaterial. Ask your solicitor for advice.

    Keep records of all contacts and of all meetings with the CS etc. If you want you can record meetings and contacts also relevant ‘phone-calls and I have to advise that it is very useful to do so. Sometimes Social Workers are so busy, they forget and misreport they are so busy and your own records will help.
    If you haven’t done so already,I advise you to go on to the Family Rights Group (FRG) website for advocacy and they also have a helpline. Did the Social Worker inform you of local advocacy services and tell you have a right to have one attend meetings with you? If not ,they should have done.
    Hope this helps and that my warnings turn out to be unnecessary. Not all LA’s are dysfunctional just a few of them. GOOD LUCK!

    Reply
    1. HelenSparkles

      “It is highly likely that the LA will be displeased that their case for EPO or IPO .” why? This is the LA asking the court to make a decision, they can’t.

      “it sounds like there are no real grounds for it” how do know this?

      Reply
      1. Angelo Granda

        I don’t know it; I am merely giving a parent’s advice upon my reading of the kikelihoods based on the comments of the anonymous reader.

        Reply
        1. HelenSparkles

          There is nothing in the content that means you can know anything, either way, which is as it should be on a blog!

          Reply
  25. Angelo Granda

    I admit I am guessing but I don’t think it unreasonable ,given that the Court has already turned down applications for both an ICO and an EPO that there are no real grounds for removal. I think it is a fair assumption and I think it is acceptable for one parent to advise another on that basis . I am not a professional and I have made that clear as usual. Based on other experiences described by other victims and on general research and because I know some Social Workers personally ,I have warned anonymous that some of them can be very vindictive and may not have taken well to their intentions having been thwarted by the Courts which many of them see as just one aspect they have to overcome to achieve their aims, legitimate or illegitimate. Indeed there is not a lot to which they will not stoop. You can take my word for that, Helen. Or go through all the appeal judgments and countless customer complaints.
    It may be they conned or blackmailed Anonymous and /or anyone else holding parental responsibility into signing the voluntary agreement. Yes! It has been known. They have done it many times before. It is not news to anyone who reads the resource.
    They often misuse S20’s. That is a fact.
    I hope Anonymous will follow my advice and be wary ,also that she will seek help from the FRG.
    Helen , can you answer my questions about PPO’s or are you not sure yourself?

    Reply
    1. HelenSparkles

      “I admit I am guessing but I don’t think it unreasonable ,given that the Court has already turned down applications for both an ICO and an EPO that there are no real grounds for removal.” you are guessing. It is just as likely that orders were not granted because S20 had been legitimately agreed.

      I don’t know what your questions about the police powers of protection are? By PPO I am guessing you mean police protection order? There is no such thing, an order is granted by the courts, the police have powers of protection.

      Reply
  26. Angelo Granda

    Thanks for your reply,Helen.
    Here are my questions about Police Protection Orders again:-

    A Police child-protection officer told a parent he was INITIATING a Police Protection ORDER under Section 46 of the Children Act. He said the ORDER would need to be signed and authorised ( i.e. issued) by a Police Inspector. The parent was not shown the order prior to her children’s removal. The Social Worker’s took the children without seeing a copy either. Does this support Helen’s belief that there is no such thing as a Police Protection Order? I understand what she is saying and in the past many others ,lawyers and advocates included ,have told me the same thing. But can you see the contradiction here? Police claim one has to be initiated, then signed and issued and indeed the procedures are written down in section 46 guidelines. Yet parents claim they never see one and SW’s say there is no such thing.
    In the particular case I am talking about , the CS day sheets state that on the Friday night in question, after the children had been taken into care, the duty SW contacted the Police three times and asked for a copy of the ORDER. The sheets also record that at 11.15 p.m. the ORDER was faxed to the CS office. The Mum telephoned the Inspector who told her he had signed and issued an order and explained why. Mum has requested a copy of the order repeatedly to no avail. Was there one or not? Or were the children taken into care by the CS illicitly?
    Maybe Sarah or a Policeman could help us here and explain.

    I hope that is clear now,Helen. Any thoughts? I don’t suppose a Policeman will come on and answer.

    Reply
  27. Amy Watson

    Hi I had my baby taken at 4 days old from hospital. He is under a section 20. They said they took the baby cause they think me and my husband would not cope. Is there a way to get my baby back home. As I am at court on 10th of October to find out what happens with mine and my husbands son.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I agree you need to get urgent legal advice. Your child should be in care proceedings, you need a lawyer and a clear court timetable to sort this out. You can’t wait until October, this needs to be in court now.

      Reply
    2. HelenSparkles

      Social workers can’t go to court until a baby is born (which is why S20 is requested when a family in care proceedings are expecting a new baby) but 4 days would have given them time to do that, even if they hadn’t know about the baby (which I expect they did if they are involved with your son). If there are care proceedings in regard to your son, that might lead to the cases being joined, but you still shouldn’t have to wait until the next hearing for your son in regard to your baby. I hope you have legal advice in regard to your son and can contact your solicitor regarding your baby.

      Reply
  28. Sam

    Amy you need to take legal advice straight away, from a family law solicitor http://solicitors.lawsociety.org.uk/ . Did you sign any paperwork and if so did you understand it? Have the local authority explained why they think you can’t cope.
    It also does not seem right that you are not in court for another five months.

    Reply
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