I am grateful for this post written by a parent about the practical and emotions impacts on parents around the issue of consent. This is particularly relevant in the context of much of the concern arising over use of section 20 accommodation under the Children Act 1989. For more detailed discussion about the impact of section 20, see this post.
permission for something to happen or agreement to do something.
“no change may be made without the consent of all the partners”
synonyms: agreement, assent, concurrence, accord; More
give permission for something to happen.
“he consented to a search by a detective”
synonyms: agree to, assent to, allow, give permission for, sanction, accept, approve, acquiesce in, go along with, accede to, concede to, yield to, give in to, submit to, comply with, abide by, concur with, conform to
“all the patients consented to surgery”
Pretty clear isn’t it, yet speaking as one of any number of parents who have been duped by having their children removed under S20 , the term consent does not seem that easy to understand by all social workers.
This short post is not about the legal implications, I am not a lawyer, but the practical and emotional effect on parents by dispensing with their consent. Consent is important , it is normally needed when someone or something could invade your privacy or potentially cause you harm. For instance we all have to consent to cookies on various website’s which store our browsing history, more seriously all sex must be between consenting adults if not it is a crime. Having you child removed from you without your consent is a violation, it feels as emotionally harmful as rape and that is no exaggeration. You are completely powerless, nobody will listen and you are as frightened as hell. You don’t know were to turn and you believe the social worker because they sound knowledgeable. It is the power imbalance at its worst.
If you then find out your child has been removed unlawfully, you ricochet into the grief cycle starting with anger, which plays straight into the hands of the local authority who will deem you as mentally unstable and /or non compliant. You will feel guilt for not knowing that what happened was wrong and that you have let your children down. Closely followed by shame that you were taken in. Night terrors , can become the norm from the resulting PTSD.
Practically , parents are encouraged to break the law with regard to the benefits system . I remember asking whether I should still receive child benefit and was told to do so. Yet if a child lives elsewhere for more than 8 weeks the parent is supposed to stop claiming https://www.gov.uk/child-
benefit-child-lives-with- someone-else .
Many parents actually then up in debt , on top of their other problems whilst they are having to downsize. They may be unlawfully placed on supervised contact, so on top of their grief, their life has to revolve around getting to contact. Jobs and other commitments are disrupted leading to added strain. Local Authorities may pay out of pocket expenses for travel to contact , but these are normally a minimum and paid late. Plus most parents will have no say as contact is gradually whittled down. Contact may very well be supervised despite being unlawful. All of this is likely to have occurred without the benefit of legal advice.
Could you imagine going for an operation without the possible implications explained to you or even buy a car on a loan and you signing to say you understood. Consent matters, especially in removal of something more precious to you than anything in the world. Lack of consent leaves open wounds for years after, I know mine are still festering, that’s why I had to write this post. I hope it helps to stop the coercion of parents happening.
A Parent’s View.
Lawyers know full well that Local Authorities regularly abuse their powers around S20 voluntary accommodation agreements and have done so for more years than I can remember. Judges regularly admonish the guilty authorities in open court but take no further action to bring them to account for it. When any of the parties to litigation breaks the rules and acts unlawfully ,any fair court would call into question the legality and credibility of all its evidence.
Not so the Family Courts which is not a fair one being biased towards Local Authorities. Were parents to contravene an S20 agreement or any other such as a letter of expectations ,it would be held against them in the same court which proves there is an element of bias.
Lawyers, why don’t you start doing your job correctly and make the authorities accountable for unlawfulness? In court establish the illegitimacy and point out the relevance of honesty and lawfulness to the Children’s Act. All the rules and procedures inside and outside court must be followed in order to ensure proportionate decisions as per the ECHR (art.8). Play it fair for a change.Think about the Local Authority antecedents and why it takes children unlawfully,for crying out loud.If the Local Authority has flouted procedures and rules, particularly as to an S20, then it is guilty of neglecting the child involved . How can threshold be met in respect of parental care when the other party in the pool has knowingly neglected the child?
When barristers and Judges accept the countless manifestations of authoritarianism and ritually allow the guilty to escape the consequences, the essential meaning of the Law is abused and distorted as a whole.
The statute has a concept of human rights ,moral values,obligations and safeguards inherent in it.The strict rules and guidelines are derived by custom and practice out of the accumulated experiences of our representatives and lawmakers.There can be no valid reason on this earth why a Local Authority should flout any of these laws and rules which are set out in black and white particularly to protect the home and personal lives of men,women and children.
Without the acceptance and adherence to a strong moral code and clear set of legal frameworks and guidelines, the ends can always be argued to justify the means and this lies at the root of all the oppression which has been practised in the existing system.
Over to the lawyers to implement the no-order principle when LA’s abuse the law|.
All comments welcome.
Everyone ignored S20 for about 30 years, including the judiciary, who suddenly woke up to the small matter of human rights. That isn’t to absolve LAs, just to acknowledge the climate has changed, which is a good thing.
Your analysis is tho’ incorrect Angelo, whilst misuse of S20 may be an issue in a case, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t safeguarding issues and ultimately the decision of the court is based on the threshold of significant harm being met – even if they tell someone off in the process. It isn’t either or, misuse of S20 doesn’t mean it is safe for children to return home.
Thank you for your opinions ,Helen I look forward to those of Sw’s as always.
Alas, will you ever learn that ‘safeguarding issues’. and ‘risk’ of significant harm does not mean children cannot return home? Children can never be 100% safe wherever they are even in a secure placement. It is reckoned by the law that it is in their paramount interests to be at home with their parents unless ‘nothing else will do’ and there is research which shows that it causes them untold trauma and emotional harm when removed into care by Local Authorities and it is not a good omen when removal is enacted without a court order etc. It probably means intents are nefarious.Heaven knows what is in store for the poor children in care !
Try and remember when you do an assessment of risk that if a child has been taken by the unlawful use of an S20 ,then you should not trust any of the guilty party’s evidence because he or she will be aiming to justify his or herself. Then bring your own influence ,as an honest SW to bear. Focuss on your duty to offer help and support to the family acting according to the Law at all times. Even when threshold are met families can be preserved and children sent home with support and monitoring as we all know.
I agree with the writer of the post and my comment was aimed at lawyers really not Sw’s who cannot be expected to understand the law fully .
A Parent’s View.
Abuse of Power in Family Courts.
It is well-known that power corrupts. The only safeguard against it is to put in place a set of guidelines and fair processes in order to guarantee fair hearings for citizens in Public Law cases where the authorities are involved.
The only protection families have against abuse is that afforded to them by the LAW.
Thus, when the civil court allows the safeguards to be by-passed there cannot be a fair hearing. There can be no exception to this general rule.
In my opinion,some discretion may possibly be admissible in private law cases where permanent liquidation of families is not usually at issue but there can be none in Public Law. Why do I think this? Because in civil courts there is no scope for it given that there is no twelve-man jury taking the decisions. There is only one judge and we know they are almost inevitably biased towards the Authorities.That is a fact which no lawyer can ever deny.It is a known!
Readers may have noticed that no lawyer has responded to my comment of April 13th on this thread above.Actually, i don’t think any of them can deny my assertions. They are well aware of it ,as is Helen. With her usual honesty, She notes that S20 ‘s have been regularly abused against human rights law.She does not absolve the LA’s from the accusations of malpractice and neither should we absolve the lawyers.The situation which prevails is very inconvenient for them; it is proof that families can be permanently liquidated fairly regularly illicitly because the sanction is imposed without a fair hearing. For years they have asked us to believe hearings are fair ones if nothing else. Victims are treated as idiots.Hundreds complain about it and a substantial number have done so on this resource.There seems to be a wall of glass dividing them from the lawyers. They hear the voices of protest and we hear their voices but as though they come from another world.I suppose many of them fear and hate that victims know the truth!. They know it too but no-one can compel them to recognise it openly. Even when readers proclaim it publicly, they will attack them for it rather than face up to what they already knew but for the love of a quiet life pretend not to know. C.P. professionals are faced with a serious dilemma. If they hold their tongues,they condone the impositions; if they don’t condone them,they must speak out. It is so much easier for them to ignore the victims and this should not surprise us .It is distressing but not surprising.The last thing they will want to admit is that their precious family court hearings are unfair. Our regular contributor,Helen,is a woman-of-the world ; she does not deny the abuses and she recognises that politics is the problem.The lawyers are also in the real world and they know it too! They also know the LA evidence is often false and they know why. Because of the inbalance and abuse of power.They often prove the evidence false in court but the Judge will ignore it and still find in favour of the authorities.
So why don’t they protest and appeal to a higher Court? Because they know and the Judge knows that Public Law cases are of political significance just as Helen does.Just as looked after child does and just as we other parents do.
When LA’s are the complainants or the respondents,the cases get mixed up with politics and there are complications .Lord Denning let the cat out of the bag over three decades ago in a Public Lecture on the B.B.C. about power and corruption; he told us all that as the judiciary relies on political patronage for their appointments ,the civil courts cannot ever be relied upon absolutely not to be biased in favour of the authorities.The possibility if not the probability is always there, there is no escape from it! There is no way the court executive can shift the responsibility on to other shoulders; the whole matter of reform and justice is bogged down because there are people who want to make a political issue of it.
The barristers don’t necessarily act incorrectly in court,i suppose, they have to accept the executive protocol having a duty to it but i believe sincerely they are wrong not to admit to the truth publicly and help us bring about change more quickly. Family Courts should not be allowed to order such draconian sanctions without fair hearings proportionate to them. This would include a panel of twelve peers making decisions. Serious cases must be taken to a higher court i.e. one that does not rely on judicial discretion.
Change is bound to come eventually.Sarah wants it.Honest SW’s want it .Parents and children do. It’s only a matter of time,let us hope .The sooner we all admit to the truth publicly , the better and preferably in time for this years conference. We should all work together.
Whatever,I hope this clarifies a few things for parents and children.
All comments welcome as usual.
SW should fully understand public law, not maybe in the detail a lawyer does, just as I wouldn’t necessarily expect them to do my job. Consent is very important which is why I’ve been pushing for my LA to have good info for parents and a clear agreement, signed by a SW, based on TP Guidance.
It is the case that some children thrive in care, and would have been harmed in the care of their parents, it is unfortunate when someone can only view through a lens of a particular bias. Whilst everything should be done to enable children to live with their parents, or other family, kin, this is not always possible.
Well, I can only say,Helen, that I admire your efforts and your honesty a great deal. It is pleasing someone is trying to encourage the correct use of S20’S and the guidelines ,frameworks in general.
However, no individuals make a child-protection system; we only endure it as we endure all authoritarian systems both political and natural ones in other spheres of life. You may try to change the system, you may succeed in some amount, you may try to train staff in your own department to reject malpractice but you can change permanently absolutely nothing because sooner or later ,everything will go to rack and ruin again if Lawyers will not change their ways. When you retire, new staff will come in and amongst them will be those who succumb to corruption and malpractice which is the inevitable result of too much power and the excesses and inhumanity of institutional bureaucracy. There will always be a percentage of zealots amongst management and a number of paedophiles as there has always been and they will break the rules and abuse rights just as they have for centuries. History tends to repeat itself and it is always the same old history.
The only factor able to protect from institutional inhumanity is the LAW. If the Family Courts will not enforce correct process, scrupulous honesty and impartiality ,fair court hearings etc. then the system will never reform itself permanently. Even were the law to tire of Public protest and blow current malpractices as to S20’s sky-high then the rest of the legal guidelines plus any new ones will also be distorted and abused over the course of time. Ultimately then, in my view, it is the Family Court and its lawyers who are at fault. The Public are entitled to expect the judicial system to be horizontal ( straight).
The civil family courts at this time, in the eyes of so many ordinary members of the Public, only represent a vulgar parody of justice rather like that seen in many totalitarian states which existed in the last century. Unless they enforce correct due process as well as honesty and probity from the LA’s as well as they enforce it with parents ,they can only achieve the same abusive system of their predecessors. Under the Children Act, they have the power to send wrongly-conducted cases packing but they fail the Public. Children suffer as a result of their failures.
What greater power can any civil authority be granted than the ability to decide on what it reckons to be the ‘best’ interests of citizens and to withdraw their human rights without consent. That is the ultimate power and it is wide open to corruption and abuse unless safeguards are in place and enforced scrupulously.
Judges ought to be ashamed of themselves. I could not help but notice that one of them in the current Alder Hey case resorted to the normal ‘family court ‘practice of deriding the intentions of the parents inhumanely. What a reprobate, he accused them of acting in their own best interests rather than those of their dear son’s. All they want to do is save Alfy’s life. The Judge should be ashamed of himself. Bias and cruelty with a capital C. What could be guaranteed to insult the poor couple more?
Constructive questions for legal professionals.
Forgetting about the headline KIDNAP in the recent article by Louise , I ask these questions in respect of what I describe as the unlawful procurement of children into care by the authorities by malpractice such as the wrongful use of an S20.
1.If a lawyer checks events and finds S20 abuse has occurred,would you advise your parent client to withdraw consent and take the child home immediately?
2.Likewise,if as a lawyer you were representing an LA, would you advise it to nullify the agreement,send the child/children home immediately and proceed in a lawful manner?
3.Should , in the circumstances, a parent withdraw consent , would you consider the L
Would you consider the LA malicious a d /or corrupt?
If it threatened to bring an application for an EPO?
Sorry for the mix-up with this comment tir ing into three separate ones.