LEGAL EAGLE: What are care proceedings and what are my legal rights?
Social Services recently sent me a letter which states that they are considering issuing Care Proceedings in respect of my two children.
They have asked me to provide my Section 20 consent for my children to be removed from my care and placed in foster care whilst assessments are ongoing. I am really worried and anxious about this situation. Please can you advise me as to what I can do and what my rights are?
Firstly, it is understandable that you are both anxious and worried about this situation. Any involvement of the Local Authority can have a major impact upon your family life and it is important that you seek advice immediately on the points you raise.
You have outlined that you have received a letter from the Local Authority which identifies that they are considering issuing Care Proceedings. This letter entitles you to free legal advice in relation to this matter. A solicitor will be able to advise you on the contents of this letter, the concerns the Local Authority have and what the Local Authority’s plans and expectations are. A solicitor will then take your instructions and attend the meeting to represent your best interests.
Secondly, it is noted that this letter outlines that the Local Authority are seeking your Section 20 consent for your children to be placed in Foster Care. In situations where the Local Authority have significant concerns regarding a child’s safety and wellbeing whilst in parental care, the Local Authority may seek what is known as Section 20 consent for the child to become looked after by the Local Authority. The Local Authority cannot place a child in foster care where you or another person with parental responsibility objects. However, if the Local Authority is satisfied that the child’s best interests can only be met by providing accommodation for him or her, and you do not agree to Section 20 Voluntary Accommodation, the Local Authority may then issue Care Proceedings or seek Police Protection.
A parent, at all times, has the right to withdraw their Section 20 consent. However, it would be highly inadvisable to take such an important step without first taking legal advice. Particularly, in cases where the Local Authority’s concerns are so significant, that without such consent, it is likely that they would issue an urgent application to the Court to secure an Interim Care Order for the Child to continue to be looked after.
It is important that you know that Section 20 consent should always be provided voluntarily and not under any duress.
I would advise you to seek immediate legal advice in relation to the above. A childcare solicitor would be able to provide you with tailored and detailed advice in relation to the above matters and the concerns the Local Authority have.
Ben Hoare Bell LLP can advise you on issues such as this. To speak to a solicitor please phone 0191 565 3112 or email [email protected] Visit www.benhoarebell.co.uk for further information.