The Court of Appeal is live streaming family cases

The Court of Appeal live streamed a hearing for a case called M(A child) today, which looked specifically at what kind of access journalists can have to family law cases.

This is what the Judiciary page said about the case:

4 March 2021

NOTE:  THIS IS A LIVE STREAM OF A FULLY REMOTE HEARING BEING HEARD ON MICROSOFT TEAMS

Re: M (a child)

By Appellant’s Notice filed on 21 August 2020, Melanie Newman, in her capacity as a public interest journalist, applies for permission to appeal the order of Mrs Justice Roberts sitting at the Family Division at the Royal Courts of Justice dated 31 July 2020 whereby she refused her application to be provided with permission to access court documents in relation to public law proceedings concerning a child which concluded in October 2018 save for a limited number of documents.

Background:

The child was made the subject of a placement order by HHJ Hess when she was 4 years old. The Court of Appeal quashed the order on 20 February 2018 with the judgment of the Court holding that the judge had failed adequately to engage with the central allegation advanced by the local authority namely that the child was at risk of physical or emotional harm in her mother’s care. The matter was remitted to the Family Court but no retrial took place. Instead, the local authority no longer sought orders separating the child from her mother and with the result that the child  returned to live with her mother where she remains to date.

The Appellant is seeking to investigate the case and in particular to look at how events unfolded which led to a local authority seeking permanently to separate a young child from her mother by way of a placement order, but who, a year later following the quashing of the placement order by the Court of Appeal, withdrew its application for a placement order and allowed the child to return  to the care of her mother where she remains.

The hearing was streamed here.

You can see the list of cases being live streamed by the Court of Appeal, here.

You can also look at data on the Court of Appeal’s Civil Division, here.

We are aware of the notice not to screenshot the proceedings, however there are no children or family members in the footage or any elements in the hearing which could reasonably lead to the prohibition of taking screen shots of this hearing, so we are adding a screen shot below. If the judiciary takes issue with it, we’ll respond swiftly.

Children’s Care Review launches website, announces panel, review team head

The Children’s Care Review, which has been set up to examine the current state of the children’s social care sector, has launched its website and announced the individuals sitting on their “Experts By Experience” panel.

The website offers an introduction to the Review’s work, and the Review’s chair, Josh MacAllister, and provides the latest developments at the Review, much like the current inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.

The “Experts By Experience” panel, comprising of 16 individuals who have experience of the care system was announced today, and include Chloe Robinson, a 17-year-old girl who is still inside the care system; Judith Denton, CEO of The Transformed You; Chris Wild, a prominent campaigner for children in care; and Sean Geoghegan, a founding member of the National Association of Young People In Care.

The panel also includes a range of people who have not experienced care directly, and include a former social worker turned adopter and kinship carer; a trustee of the charity Family Rights Group; and a researcher who has advised the current government on policy for children in care.

These appointments are likely down to the government feeling they need to oversee and steer those on the panel, which, as with the child abuse inquiry, could lead to heightened tensions and ongoing conflict within this panel.

The Review’s page for the panel, while featuring a BAME woman at the top of the list, fails to place the children and young men and women on this panel at the very top together, which seems to highlight the government’s and the Review lead’s ongoing deafness to the nuances in the sector.

Joining Chloe Robinson on the panel as a young person in care or with care experience, are: Rhiannon Parkinson, Charmaine Orchard, Asif Salarzai and Jerome Harvey-Agyei.

Another new appointment was also announced. Shazia Hussain, who is a civil servant, will head up the review team which is made up of civil servants from across various government departments but does not go on to say who has been appointed to the review team.

And we don’t mean to be picky, but, terrible URL.

You can access the website here, and read about the “Experts By Experience” panel here.

New children’s commissioner wants parents and children to get in touch

The new Children’s Commissioner, Rachel de Souza, said she wanted to hear concerns held by parents and children about the services offered to children and families, in her inaugural speech.

The statement, which was published on 1 March to coincide with de Souza’s first day as commissioner, said, “If you’re reading this, and you can think of an unmet need for a child you know about, the Children’s Commissioner wants to know. If you are a child, and you are thinking about writing to us, don’t hesitate.”

De Souza also called on child welfare organisations to work together to improve children’s outcomes, and said the commission existed “to help set a direction for you all, for us, working together, without fear or favour, in the interests of children and for the rights of children.”

De Souza’s appointment has sparked criticism from Parliament’s education committee. Her professional experience, much like current Children’s Care Review lead Josh MacAlister, stems from the education sector, and she has almost no knowledge of other sectors within the child welfare system.

Committee members raised concerns over de Souza’s ability to take on the role during the recruitment process last year, citing her lack of experience, and a lack of transparency within the recruitment process itself.

In a letter to education secretary Gavin Williamson, Conservative committee chair Robert Halfon — who did not vote on de Souza’s appointment — said that her evidence to the committee “highlighted several deficits in her knowledge and experience and she will need to address these as soon as possible” and “In particular, we were concerned at the candidate’s apparent lack of knowledge of some areas relevant to her new role. Key among these were in the fields of children’s social care and fostering and adoption, youth services, the youth justice system, child and adolescent mental health and the wider immigration system.”

Ofsted had previously criticised de Souza’s handling of Special Educational Needs (SEN) students, which the watchdog said involved a pattern by the Inspiration Trust — where de Souza has been the CEO — of off-rolling and excluding SEN children in order to ‘turn around’ the schools in her care. De Souza has denied the claims.

Despite these concerns, the committee found that de Souza was a “competent candidate”, and she has now taken up her role, which she will hold for five years.

If you’d like to get in touch with the commissioner to raise concerns about the child welfare sector or highlight a child in need, you can do so here.

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Hitting a child should be recognised as an adverse childhood experience, researchers say

Welcome to another week.

A new study published by the University of Michigan has suggested that the negative effects of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are very similar to those experienced by children who were hit in childhood.

ACEs, which include physical and emotional abuse, neglect, exposure to the mental illness of a parent or carer, and domestic violence, can negatively impact children in childhood and beyond.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Pediatrics on 3 February, offers evidence that spanking and ACEs have statistically indistinguishable effects on early behavioural problems.

Researchers analysed the responses from 2,380 families in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a joint project by Princeton University’s Center for Research on Child Wellbeing and the Columbia Population Research Center, and found that ACEs and spanking at 3 years were unique risk factors for increased externalising problems when children reached 5 years of age.

Lead author of the study, Julie Ma, said, “This suggests that the detrimental effects of spanking and ACEs on children are likely to be similar,” in a press release for the study published on 11 February.

The press statement also offers several links relating to the study and the researchers who produced it, which we’re adding below:

Study abstract: Adverse Childhood Experiences and Spanking Have Similar Associations with Early Behavior Problems
Julie Ma
Shawna Lee
Andrew Grogan-Kaylor

Many thanks to Professor Joan Durrant for alerting us to this study.

Scottish law places duty on councils to place siblings in care together

Amendments to the Looked After Children (Scotland) Regulations 2009 will support the rights of brothers and sisters in care to live together.

The regulations, which come into force in stages, from 31 March 2021, create a duty on local authorities to place siblings together in kinship care, foster care and residential care, whenever it is appropriate.

The definition of sibling in the regulations is “a person who has at least one parent in common with the child” and has been extended to include “any other person with whom the child has lived or is living, and with whom the child has an ongoing relationship with the character of a relationship between siblings.”

Siblings going through the care system in Scotland are routinely separated, which has created an additional layer of trauma and harm for these children. A major review of Scotland’s care system found that the phenomenon had profound and often life-long consequences for those children.

Brothers and sisters in the care system in England and Wales are also being separated. A Freedom of Information request found that more than 12,000 children in England and Wales had been separated from one another inside the care system last year.

The explanatory note for the changes is very helpful, and so we’re adding key segments from the note below. It’s important to mention that these new regulations only apply to Scotland.

EXPLANATORY NOTE

These Regulations amend the Looked After Children (Scotland) Regulations 2009 (“the 2009 Regulations”). The 2009 Regulations make provision for the duties and functions of local authorities in respect of children who are looked after by them in terms of section 17(6) of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 (“the 1995 Act”).

Siblings

Regulation 3(2) inserts a new definition in regulation 2 (interpretation) of the 2009 Regulations to clarify that “sibling of the child” means a person who has at least one parent in common with the child, and any other person with whom the child has lived or is living, and with whom the child has an ongoing relationship with the character of a relationship between siblings.

Regulation 3(3) amends regulation 4 (assessment) of the 2009 Regulations so that, where appropriate, a local authority must also take into account views of any sibling of the child. Regulation 3(3)(c) omits regulation 4(5) of the 2009 Regulations in consequence of the new regulation 5A (duty to place siblings together) inserted by regulation 3(5).

Regulation 3(4) amends regulation 5 (child’s plan) of the 2009 Regulations in relation to taking account of the views of any sibling before preparing the child’s plan.

Regulation 3(5) inserts a new regulation 5A (duty to place siblings together) in the 2009 Regulations. This provides that the local authority must, where appropriate, place the child and any sibling of the child who is also looked after with the same carer or in the same residential establishment, or in homes which are near to each other. In determining what is appropriate the local authority must be satisfied that the placement safeguards and promotes the welfare of the child (the paramount consideration). A local authority may only place a child in homes that are near together rather than in the same placement if that better safeguards and promotes the welfare of the child.

Regulation 3(10) amends regulation 35(b)(iii) (child placed in residential establishment: information to be supplied) of the 2009 Regulations to clarify that arrangements for contact with the child’s family includes contact with their siblings.

Regulation 3(11) amends regulation 36(3)(e)(i) (emergency placement with carer) of the 2009 Regulations to include reference to the duty to promote contact with siblings in section 17(1)(d) of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 (section 17(1)(d) is inserted by section 13 of the Children (Scotland) Act 2020).

Regulation 3(12) makes amendments to schedule 1 (information relating to the child) in relation to siblings.

Regulation 3(13) makes amendments to schedule 4 (matters and obligations to be covered in foster and kinship placement agreements) with regard to contact with siblings.

Placement limit

Regulation 3(8) inserts a new 27A(2)(c) in the 2009 Regulations to provide that there is a further exception to the placement limit referred to in regulation 27A(1) where regulation 27B(4) applies.

Regulation 3(9) inserts a new regulation 27B into the 2009 Regulations to provide a procedure for the local authority to follow if it considers that it is in the best interests of a child to continue the current short term or emergency placement of a child, despite the placement limit.

Regulation 3(6) amends regulation 20 (functions of the fostering panel) of the 2009 Regulations in consequence of regulations 27A(2)(c) and 27B.

Regulation 3(7) amends regulation 25(1)(a) (reviews and termination of approval) of the 2009 Regulations in consequence of regulation 27B(4).

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

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