Welcome to another week.
Controversial S.20 Agreements, meant for placing children in local authority accommodation where child protection concerns exist but which have been illegally used to take children into care, are now on the Supreme Court’s radar.
After the Court of Appeal ruled that there was no duty on councils to get parental consent for these agreements, the family involved in this case appealed the decision, and the Justices at the Supreme Court have now granted permission to challenge the ruling.
Section 20 Agreements have been so badly abused by social workers that in April of this year an investigation was launched, which aimed to look at how and why these agreements were being used to coerce families and children into child protection proceedings.
The ruling by the Court of Appeal also contradicts the President of the Family Division’s own guidelines, released in 2015, which explicitly state that parental consent must be obtained for any S.20 Agreement.
At Researching Reform we take the view that parental consent must be a basic ingredient of any Section 20 Agreement, which is by its nature a voluntary arrangement. Failure to secure that consent, to our mind, renders the agreement null and void precisely because it is a voluntary arrangement, which expressly implies a need for consent.
Just as critically, failure to obtain consent acts as a gateway to abuse, allowing social workers to coerce families into child protection proceedings. It is this lack of transparency, and consent, that has led to councils being able to use S.20 Agreements to break the law and take children from parents.
But that’s just one view.
Our question then, is just this: do you think parental consent should be a legal requirement for S.20 Agreements?
A very big thank you to Michele Simmons for alerting us to this development.