Charity launches legal challenge to protect vulnerable children

A children’s rights charity has launched legal action to get a document published as part of the Department for Education’s (DFE) programme removed from circulation.

Article 39 is concerned that local authorities are being given advice that will put thousands of vulnerable children and young people at risk.

The application to launch judicial review proceedings comes after a document published by the department came to light which frames as ‘myths’ legal protections for children in care, care leavers, children who are in custody on remand, and children who run away and go missing.

The guide contains a number of questions about different aspects of the local authorities’ duties to protect vulnerable children and young people, and the charity has raised concerns that much of the advice about councils’ legal obligations contradicts and undermines existing law and statutory guidance.

Last year, fifty organisations and social work experts wrote to Children’s Minister Nadhim Zahawi MP urging him to withdraw inaccurate parts of the document but he refused, stating there had been no change to the law or government guidance.

Now legal representatives of the charity have confirmed that legal action to remove the document from circulation was now underway.

Article 39’s Director, Carolyne Willow, said: “It is deeply regrettable that the Minister did not withdraw the document after we clearly set out the inconsistencies with the current statutory framework. This document overwrites key obligations within our children’s social care system, which were crafted over many years and subject to detailed public consultations. The protections the guide presents as mythical exist in our legislation and statutory guidance because of the real needs of real children and young people.

“We are taking a risk financially with this legal challenge but it’s the right thing to do. It shouldn’t fall to vulnerable children and young people, many of whom are in the care of the state, to have to go to court to defend the protections Parliament and successive governments have given them.”

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Alison Green
Alison joined Mackrell Turner Garrett in 1989 and qualified as a solicitor in 1991, becoming a partner in the firm in 2010. Her expertise covers matrimonial work, including divorce and the associated financial and children issues; pre and post-nuptial agreements; co-habitation disputes; civil partnership agreements and the breakdown of civil partnerships.