Revised 22 April 2014
Voluntary accommodation is covered in Section 20 of the Children Act 1989. According to the Act itself, the local authority has a duty to provide accommodation to children who are in need.
Specifically, a child must be provided with accommodation if:
Such children are accommodated in either residential and foster care, for short or longer periods. Such accommodation is done at the request and with the consent of those with parental responsibility for the child.
Section 20 is a co-operative venture between the local authority, the child and the parents. There is no enforcement of the child being looked after.
If a child is accommodated the parents retain full parental responsibility.
Nothing can be done with the child without the consent of their parents and if a parent asks for the child to be returned to them, this request should be complied with.
This all sounds very innocuous, and properly used, Section 20 accommodation is a help for those who need it.
“You put my mind at ease at
every stage of the proceedings.
THANK YOU for getting my son
home. It is something neither
I nor my family will ever forget”Our client, Emma.
However, there is a more sinister side to this whereby Section 20 can be abused as a convenient loop-hole by the local authority to separate a child from his or her parents.
Because Court action is necessary to get a Care Order drawn up under Section 18 of the Children Act, there has been an attempt on the part of local authorities to get around this by having parents talked into, convinced, cajoled or even brow-beaten into putting their children up for accommodation under Section 20.
Once so given up, the child is – rightfully or wrongfully – in the hands of social services and it is that much harder to get them back than it is to keep hold of them should the local authority then seek to begin care proceedings.
Given the foster-to-adopt policy of the Children and Families Act 2014, this situation is even more precarious as any looked-after child may be placed with a potential adopter. And in such voluntary accommodation cases, care proceedings to determine if the child should be permanently removed will be utterly bypassed, leaving the parents with no legal advice as to their options until it is too late.
As Brendan Fleming himself has said, if you are asked to sign for your child to be taken into voluntary care, DO NOT SIGN. You are allowing the local authority to bypass the court and in essence you are proving their case that you are an unsuitable parent for your child. It’s like a confession of guilt and it means there will be no investigation, and no right of appeal as you have given your consent.Contact Us Now
Brendan Fleming Solicitors are nationally recognized as a leading choice in the area of care work. We are justifiably proud of our expertise and our success rate. We are contracted to the Legal Services Commission for this type of work and are considered to be one of the leading national firms for publicly funded services.
Our principal, Brendan Fleming, has won a reputation for his innovative approach, spearheading many new ways of securing justice for families caught in the care proceedings trap. He is a member of a select children’s panel and recognized and approved by the Law Society.
If you are being pressurized into putting your child into voluntary accommodation under Section 20, or have been pressurized into doing so, see how we can help you, contact Brendan Fleming today.