A thought-provoking meeting yesterday reminded us that Section 20 arrangements (agreements which allow a local authority to place a child in accommodation where there may be child welfare concerns) are still a problem area for many families.

As a quick recap, we thought we would add these key points for parents below:

  • Section 20 arrangements are voluntary – this means that the local authority cannot place a child in alternative accommodation unless parents agree to the arrangement.
  •  You are entitled to be fully informed – the local authority must offer you as much information as you need, in a clear and accessible format
  • If you have parental responsibility for a child, you can remove your child from accommodation provided by or on behalf of the local authority at any time
  • If a child is 16 or 17, they can leave the accommodation without parental consent
  • Always ask for a S.20 arrangement to be put into writing – something this important shouldn’t be set up on word of mouth. If anyone refuses to put this agreement in writing, tell them you have the support of the President Of The Family Division
  • Children have a right to be heard – any child who wants to express their wishes and feelings in writing is entitled to do so under a S.20 agreement, and to have those views taken on board by the local authority
  • A S.20 arrangement should never be used to secure care proceedings – local authorities do not have the right to put you off terminating a S.20 by giving you the impression that it’s final or compulsory

This is advice we give to every family we assist with these arrangements. At their heart, S.20s are intended to foster collaboration between families, the local authority and most importantly, the children involved. The local authority is bound to take the child’s view into account too if it’s providing accommodation for a child.

If the local authority you’re talking to doesn’t understand your rights under S.20, or isn’t aware of them, don’t be shy to tell them. They’re your rights, and they’re real.

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