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Autistic boy to remain in care

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A ten year-old boy with severe autism should remain in secure accommodation, a family court judge has ruled.

The case concerned as 10 year-old boy referred to in the judgement as ‘Daniel X’. He lives in Essex and has been diagnosed with severe autism, as well as a serious learning disability. Until 2014 he lived at home with his parents and younger sister. Then aged eight, the boy responded to being left alone by his parents one day by wandering off down the road with no shoes or trousers on.

Already concerned that his parents were not looking after him properly, social workers quickly took Daniel into care, placing him in special accommodation. Thurrock Borough Council launched  care proceedings the following year and these were eventually transferred from the magistrates to the family court, before Judge Lynn Roberts, because the continuing accommodation of Daniel in his residential home amounted to a restriction of his liberty as he would not be able to leave. The authority therefore sought legal authorisation for this ‘deprivation of liberty’, as required by the Mental Capacity Act.

Sitting in the Family Court at Chelmsford, Judge Roberts noted that:

“The position of the Local Authority is that Daniel should remain in [the secure accommodation] with regular and frequent contact to his family. They rely on the assessments which are unanimous that Daniel needs to be cared for within a unit such as [the home]  and that his needs are too great to be cared for within a family home, and that in any event, his parents whilst caring well for [his younger sister] are not able to meet Daniel’s needs.”

Both parents supported the authority’s plan to place Daniel in the care home on a long term basis. The mother was initially opposed, but later changed her mind. She did not attend the hearing.

The boy’s father, meanwhile, was reported to be “very pleased” with the care he is receiving.

Judge Roberts granted the care order, saying:

“Daniel’s parents do not oppose the making of a Care order which will allow Daniel to remain at [the secure home] but they have not been of this view until recently. I find that an order is necessary in this case to meet Daniel’s needs as it is his welfare which is my paramount concern pursuant to [section 1] of the Children Act 1989, and I am satisfied that Daniel’s needs are being well met … and that no other arrangement will meet his needs at this time.”

Turning to the deprivation of liberty, Judge Roberts explained that in most circumstances courts cannot authorise indefinite deprivations. Any deprivations must be reviewed periodically. She authorised a one year-period for Daniel, stating that the council would have to submit supporting evidence 35 days before the expiry of the order if it believed Daniel still required secure accommodation. His parents would be consulted.

Read D (deprivation of liberty declaration) here.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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