(Court of Appeal; Thorpe and Wall LJJ and Coleridge J; 22 October 2009)
In a case involving 5 children it was accepted that the local authority assessments of the parents had been inadequate. The mother, although still using cannabis, had been free of cocaine and heroin for about 6 months; the father was in prison and was currently drug free. Nonetheless, the judge refused the parents' application for a further residential assessment of their parenting.
The judge had been particularly influenced by: the long and serious drug involvement by both parents, with the associated history of domestic neglect; the lack of insight by both parents; the impossibility of making any decision favourable to the parents quickly, given that any assessment would need to involve long-term abstinence by both parents during a period when they were actually caring for the children; and the risk of delay to the children. The factor of delay was indeed a decisive factor, weighing the overall chances of success in the balance together with the effect of the disruption to the children's lives in carrying out the assessment.