A helpful summary on how family law orders and measures work in relation to 17 year-olds has been written by an in-house advocate at a London borough.

Hazel Samuriwo, who works for Brent council, outlined the different ways the law applies – or doesn’t – to 17 year-old children, in a report for Family Law Week.

The report offers the definition of a child for child protection purposes, and explains the provisions available under the Children Act 1989, relevant jurisdiction issues and what happens to interim orders and public law proceedings once a child turns seventeen.

The summary’s purpose is to alert councils to the fact that provisions for 17 year-olds are limited in scope and duration, and encourages the use of emergency applications, which this site is wary of given the way these applications are currently being misused.

However, it also explains that professionals should think carefully before issuing proceedings as a child is about to turn 17, as most orders at that stage are not granted by the courts.

Despite the heavy emphasis on securing orders where possible, the report also serves as a useful guide for children, offering information on their rights so that they are not forced into inappropriate or unnecessary arrangements.

For example, the section on accommodation for children in need, under section 20 offers some helpful details on how this provision is used. The explanation though, does omit the fact that being accommodated under a S.20 arrangement is a purely voluntary process, so that children can remove themselves from the accommodation at any time, and without notice. Parents and carers of children can also do the same.

Samuriwo offers 9 key points in the report, which include:

  • Full care orders made at any time before a child turns 17 lasts until the child turns 18;
  • Local authorities can bring care proceedings for a child who is almost 17, and can apply for Interim Supervisions Orders and Interim Care Orders, but interim orders cease to have effect once the child turns 17;
  • Proceedings that start before a child’s 17th birthday can continue beyond that birthday if the court can find merit to the application, and there are strong welfare considerations. In most cases the court will decide that proceedings must end;
  • At age 17 a local authority can no longer bring care proceedings as there is no jurisdiction for public law orders for children that age;
  • Emergency provisions (Emergency Protection Order, police protection, child assessment order), though applicable to those over the age of 17, are limited by the ability of the Gillick competent child to refuse to submit to assessment and by their limited duration;
  • An Emergency Protection Order granted in respect of a 17-year old can’t be extended because only a local authority with Parental Responsibility and entitled to apply for a full order can apply for an extension and;
  • A secure accommodation order is available to a 17-year old, provided he or she  is ‘looked after’ at the time (i.e. under a care order or accommodated under s20) and the other criteria are met.

You can read the report in full, here. 

Further reading:



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