Accommodation for children
Every local authority shall provide accommodation for any ‘child in need’ within their area, who appears to them to require accommodation as a result of:
(a) there being no person who has parental responsibility for them;
(b) them being lost or having been abandoned;
(c) the person who has been caring for them being prevented (whether or not permanently, and for whatever reason) from providing them with suitable accommodation or care.
Even in those circumstances if there is a person who has parental responsibility for a child to object to them being looked after, the local authority would have no option but to start court proceedings.
In addition to the duty to provide accommodation as set out above, a local authority may provide accommodation for any child within their area (even though a person who has parental responsibility for them is able to provide them with accommodation) if they consider that to do so would safeguard or promote the child’s welfare.
There are some occasions when a local authority’s concerns for a child are such that that the parents (or any other person with parental responsibility for the child) are asked to provide their consent to the local authority looking after the child, often in foster care. This is often called section 20 accommodation. The Local Authority cannot place a child in foster care where a parent or other person with parental responsibility objects. If the Local Authority is clear that the child’s interests can only be met by providing accommodation for him or her and the parent does not agree the Local Authority will have to start Court proceedings or, in the case of an emergency, seek a Police Protection Order.
It is important to note that where a local authority look after a child with parental consent it does not acquire parental responsibility for the child. This is retained by the parent or any other party who had parental responsibility prior to the child being looked after.
The effect of this is that the parents (or other person with parental responsibility) has the last say over contact issues and indeed has the right to remove the child from accommodation. It would, however, be inappropriate to take any important step such as this which could be disruptive for the child without first taking legal advice and consulting with the local authority. If a parent were, in these circumstances, to remove the child from accommodation where a local authority had serious concerns for the child it is likely that the local authority would make an emergency application to the Court.
If you need any advice about the Local Authority’s involvement with your family please contact us.
For all Child Care related matters contact us now on firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 7101 3090.