Legal campaign group the Transparency Project has published guidance on the use of voluntary accommodation in the care system for children by local authorities.
Such accommodation is provided by local authorities under section 20 of the Children Act 1989.
This states that:
“Every local authority shall provide accommodation for any child in need within their area who appears to them to require accommodation as a result of—
(a)there being no person who has parental responsibility for him;
(b)his being lost or having been abandoned; or
(c)the person who has been caring for him being prevented (whether or not permanently, and for whatever reason) from providing him with suitable accommodation or care.”
However, the consent of the child’s parents is required. The Transparency Project notes that:
“There is thus no judicial scrutiny of what is happening to the child and no court timetable by when final decisions must be made about the child.”
The group claims that children housed under section 20 sometimes simply ‘drift’ into the care system without proper planning or oversight. Sometimes parents claim they were pressured into agreement and not fully informed of the consequences.
The guidance is aimed at parents and carers as well as professionals who work with children in the care system. It attempts to outline the realities and implications of Section 20 accommodation and its implications.
Read the guidance here.
As the name suggests, registered charity the Transparency Project works to promote transparency within the family court system in England and Wales. Its members include barristers, solicitors and journalists.