Troubled autistic boy can be left in care home court rules

Family Law|December 22nd 2017

Restrictions placed on an 11 year-old living in a residential care home are lawful, a family court has declared.

The boy was placed in a special residential home earlier this year after social workers became concerned that his mother was neglecting him and could not cope with his disabilities. ‘B’ has a form of autism, is prone to verbal and physical aggression, and requires skilled care and constant supervision.

In the West London Family Court Her Honour Judge Rowe QC noted that his behaviour had deteriorated since his placement in the home and his freedom of movement was subject to significant restrictions there.

“Set out in detail in the social worker’s evidence the restrictions include,

a. Supervision from a distance (he is not followed but staff are always aware where he is and what he doing);

b. He is not left alone with the other child in the placement;

c. He is always accompanied when out in the community;

d. He is subject, from time to time, to the removal and/or limitation of access to a computer and Xbox; and

e. Staff use numerous specialist methods to deal with his behaviour, including physical restraint listed in a chronology covering May to September 2017.”

The local authority applied for a declaration that these restrictions amounted to what are legally termed ‘deprivations of liberty’, and that they were in his best interests and therefore lawful. They wanted authorisation for a year. Their application was supported by the boy’s court guardian but she questioned whether a full year was really necessary.

Neither of B’s parents were in court. But the father failed to return messages left for him by a social worker so could not be formally served with notice of the proceedings. The mother had been served but unable to secure legal aid – and had also suffered a fall, restricting her mobility, and therefore was both “unrepresented and unable to attend”.

The Judge refused her application for an adjournment on the grounds that the restraints in place on her son’s day-to-day life were already in place so consideration was urgent. In addition, any order made would still be subject to revision at any time.

Judge Rowe concluded that

“The likely consequences should B not be restrained in moments of extreme behaviour are plainly that he is likely to injure himself or other persons. …on welfare grounds, therefore, I accept the submissions and evidence of the local authority and Guardian. I conclude that the order should be made.”

You can read Re B in full ruling here.

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