Some of the family team at Hewitts Solicitors attended the annual Family Justice Board event on the 30th January 2020. This was a fabulous event organised by Dere Street Chambers. The President of the Family Division Sir Andrew McFarlane gave a wonderful speech about family work in our area, how we work in a professional, collaborative way with mutual respect for one another.
In respect of care proceedings, the volume of work has increased. In 2016, care cases increased by up to 25%, and there are no signs of this volume of work dipping in the North East area.
Private law proceedings have also increased by up to 10%, the hearings can now take longer as a lot of individuals are representing themselves as ‘litigants in person’.
There is to be further consideration about how Section 20 accommodation is utilised in care proceedings. Sometimes this mechanism can be useful for some children to enable matters to be dealt with out of Court. Sometimes such an agreement between the family and the Local Authority offers enough protection. There is to a relaunch and reconsideration of the use of Section 20 and proper guidance for Local Authorities. The pre-proceedings procedure is a very important process and needs to be completed thoroughly.
The terms of section 20 of the Children Act 1989 put the onus on the Local Authority to provide accommodation for a child in need in their area who appears to need accommodation because of one or more of the following:
- No person has parental responsibly for them
- They have been lost or been abandoned
- The person who has been caring for the child is prevented permanently or not, from providing him or her with suitable accommodation or care.
Section 20 is often offered as an alternative to the Local Authority applying for a Care Order and asking for the parents to consent to the child living in Local Authority care. It is also important that the parent is in full possession of all the facts and issues material to the giving of consent.
It is really important that you take legal advice before you agree to Section 20 consent (which is in effect allowing your child to be cared for by the Local Authority in foster care or with another family member). Legal advice will ensure you completely understand what is happening, that you understand all the options that are available to you, and what the consequences of giving consent are.
If you would like to discuss your own situation with regard to section 20, or any aspect of children, Local Authorities or any family law matter, then please contact a member of our dedicated family team.