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A judge has ruled to not name the council that failed to properly consult a child’s father during a section 20 failing.
A recent ruling by a judge to not name the local authority involved in a section 20 failing has reminded social workers of the importance of fully consulting parents involved in one of these agreements.
The case in question revolved around a child C, who was placed in a voluntary section 20 agreement. While the child’s mother agreed to this arrangement, the father was not consulted.
During the proceedings the father was not with the mother, and he was found to not have the capacity to participate in court due to his inability to read and a mild learning disability. However, the ruling said it was up to the local authority to identify the father as having parental responsibility, particularly given that he was on the birth certificate and had regular contact with the mother.
The October judgement said: “Not only was F (the father) not consulted and asked if he had any objection, he was not asked if he knew of any relative who might be able to provide a temporary home for C (the child).”
Judge Heather Anderson said: “I wish to make it clear that there is no suggestion of any bad faith on the part of any of the professionals in this case.
“An early error was not noticed by a variety of professionals who are all working under a great deal of pressure. It is unlikely that this pressure will lessen. Therefore it is crucial that where rights and obligations derive from parental responsibility, clear simple procedures are put in place as early as possible to establish who has it.”
Judge Anderson added that the early gathering of information regarding a child’s family circumstances is “crucial” to there being fair and timely child protection procedures in place.
However, it was decided not to name the local authority that made the failing in question. Judge Anderson noted that social workers and their advisors were under “huge pressure”, much of which was due to the court’s requirements.
She said that while she is “critical” of the local authority’s failings, nothing useful will come from attributing the failings to it.
Registered social worker and qualified lawyer Allan Norman stated that this case illustrates how professionals “don’t make assumptions that somebody who has parental responsibility and a right to be consulted might lack capacity, and therefore lack the legal capacity, to make decisions and therefore doesn’t need to be consulted.”
Meanwhile, the Press Association reports that former MP and “campaigner against injustice” John Hemming has criticised the decision.
“Unless we know where things have gone wrong, they cannot be put right,” he commented.
Mr Hemming added that the public has a right to know what is done in their name and that it is “simply not good enough” to keep the name of the council secret due to the fact that social workers and their advisors work under “huge pressure”.
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