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Section 20: Abused, or just not used?

Date:17 AUG 2015
Pupil Barrister

Hannah examines the recent case law around section 20 of the Children Act 1989 and two concerning trends: s 20 being abused or worryingly not used at all.

Section 20 of the Children Act 1989 (the 1989 Act) can be a tool of stability and agreement or wielded as a weapon that exploits the fears of deferential parents at their most vulnerable. Section 20(4) of the 1989 Act provides local authorities with the obligation to accommodate a child even if the parent can provide accommodation if the local authority thinks that this is necessary to 'safeguard or promote the child’s welfare'. Crucially this provision requires the consent of everyone with parental responsibility.

In the last year anecdotal evidence and a flurry of case law suggests an increase in the use of s 20. This could be due to a toxic mix of factors including:

a)the drive to comply with 26-week timescales when in proceedings so using s 20 as vital ‘extra time’ to gather evidence and undertake assessments;

b)financially struggling local authorities (a sharp-intake of breath at 'does this really need to go into proceedings?'...

Read the full article here.