Case Law and Legal Summaries
Case Law and Legal Summaries: monthly overview and analysis of selected public law cases, highlighting implications and recommendations for practice.
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Case 1 is an appeal concerning post-adoption contact. The judgment reviews current legislation and case law around post-adoption contact, particularly direct contact. The judge also quotes and signposts recent research on post-adoption contact to support the conclusion, indicating that 'any social worker, children’s guardian or expert who is required to advise the court on the issue of contact, will ensure that they are fully aware of any current research and its potential impact upon the welfare issues in each particular case.'
In case 2 the judge grants the application for a Special Guardianship Order to a member of the extended family which had no previous relationship with the child. The judge reviews the factors around a placement in circumstances where the child and special guardian have no significant pre-existing relationship, where the guardian lives far away from mother and wider family, where the placement is untested and local authority involvement will be made difficult, particularly in view of a recent serious case review.
Case 3 reviews an application from a local authority for permission to refuse to allow direct contact between a father and his son, currently living with his mother under a care order. The judge considers the approach which should be taken when considering refusing contact between a parent and child.
In case 4 the judge criticises the conduct of a medical expert instructed by the Family Court, setting out the duties of an expert and expected conduct when delays are expected in a court assessment.
In case 5 the judge made care orders allowing siblings aged two and eight years to be placed together in long term foster care. The local authority's plan had been to separate the siblings, placing the oldest in foster care and placing the youngest for adoption. The court considered the sibling assessment by the Allocated Social Worker and an expert report and oral evidence regarding the relationship between siblings and impact of their separation.
Section 20 (s.20) accommodation by a local authority, under the Children Act 1989, may have an appropriate role to play as a short term measure in a Child Protection case where care proceedings are otherwise justified. Prolonged provision under s.20, without commencing care proceedings, is likely to be a misuse of the local authority’s powers rendering such practice unacceptable and subject to judicial criticism. The four cases summarised below address the following key issues in relation to s.20:
- Capacity of a parent to consent to s.20 voluntary accommodation. Hedley J guidance in Re CA
- S.20 written agreements. Re N
- Highlights the exact wording of s.20(7) of the 1989 Act: the word ‘objects’ as opposed to ‘consents’ is specified. Re Williams
- Reviews appropriate and inappropriate use of s.20 accommodation. Re AB
This month we summarise case law relevant to care planning for children. Since Re B (a Child)  UKSC 33, case law has refined the situations in which adoption should be the plan for a child and how evidence presented to court must address all “the options which are realistically possible” for long term care. We focus on Re B-S and subsequent case law which further explored the definition of ‘realistic options’, the use of the welfare checklist and the meaning of the term “nothing else will do”. This month’s issue includes summaries of:
- Overall recommendations for practitioners involved in permanence planning for children following case law
- Re B  which brought to the forefront the expressions ‘nothing else will do’ and ‘last resort’ when practitioners are considering adoption for a child.
- The main implications for practice of Re B-S 
- Re R (A child) , exploring the landscape post Re B-S and clarification of the term ‘realistic options’
- Re S (a Child)  and clarity around ruling out unrealistic options without considering the welfare checklist. This appeal considered whether or not the judge was justified in ruling out the child’s paternal grandmother as a realistic option for the child’s long term care, despite the child previously spending a large proportion of their time in the grandmother’s care.
- W (A Child)  again emphasises the importance of a well –evidenced and analytical welfare checklist - professional assessment and evidence must address the welfare of a child throughout his/her lifetime. This case is an appeal by prospective adopters against a SGO granted in favour of paternal grandparents. The grandparents came forward after the child had already been placed with prospective adopters.