Council criticised for child legal failings

A Family Court judge has criticised a council after a string of legal failings concerning the handling of children in its care.

The judges’ comments were published in the Hereford Times.

Mr Justice Keehan said Herefordshire Council had been too slow to take control of cases and make long-term decisions about children’s living arrangements.

The judge suggested that about a third of approximately 50 children in the council’s care had been affected.

The comments centre on the council’s use of section 20 of The Children Act, which gives local authorities the ability to provide accommodation to children who have nowhere suitable to live.

Judge Keehan said the council’s use of section 20 was “wholly inappropriate”, as it was being used to avoid legal proceedings and make concrete decisions about the children’s futures.

“Excepting (five) children who are now the subject of (family court) proceedings, the local authority is accommodating 42 children,” said the judge.

“Of these 42 children, the local authority have now recognised that 14 have wrongly and abusively been the subject of section 20 accommodation for a wholly inappropriate lengthy period of time and/or should have been the subject of legal planning meetings and/or care proceedings at a much earlier time.”

“Their treatment by Herefordshire Council represents two of the most egregious abuses of section 20 accommodation it has yet been my misfortune to encounter as a judge,” he added, in reference to two particular children.

Since his criticism, it is believed a new senior management team is in place and is aiming to make significant improvements.

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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.