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CARE: Re S [2008] EWCA Civ 1078

Date:12 AUG 2008

(Court of Appeal; Mummery and Wall LJJ; 12 August 2008)

The mother had been 16 and in the care of the local authority when she gave birth; the child was placed in a long-term foster placement by the local authority. The authority then placed the mother and child in a residential assessment, but the placement had broken down very quickly. The mother issued an application for another residential assessment, but withdrew that by agreement with the judge. At a relatively late stage she again sought a residential assessment for herself and the child, but the judge dismissed her application. She appealed arguing that, as in Re L and H (Residential Assessment) [2007] EWCA Civ 213, the lack of an assessment left a gap in the evidence relating to the mother's ability to care for the child. Evidence at the appeal hearing made it clear that, if an assessment were ordered, the final hearing would have to be adjourned. Further, there was a risk that at the end of the assessment the child would not be able to return to the foster placement, the only home the child had ever known.

It was clear from the judgment that the judge had balanced the evidence of experts and social workers, some of which supported further assessment. This, in addition to the issue of delay, the mother's behaviour and the risk to the child, meant that the judge had exercised his discretion appropriately.