Local authorities must give more thought to whether or not care proceedings are really necessary, Britain’s most senior family law judge declared in a recent ruling.
The case concerned the parents of a four year-old boy, referred to as ‘AB’, who suffers from a “life-limiting” brain disorder. In February of last year, their local authority decided he should be taken into care because the parents were not cooperating with the carers sent to help them with AB.
Judge Tolson granted the care order but this was postponed while an appeal by the parents proceeded. Later that year, however, the council reversed course and applied for permission to withdraw their care proceedings. The situation had changed in AB’s family, they explained. His parents’ relationship with the council carers had improved, allowing them to provide the mandated help with the boy’s care.
Family Division President Sir James Munby granted the authority’s request, commending the parents for working with the carers and noting that no critical findings had been made about their own care of AB.
But he also suggested that the unnamed local authority should have given more thought to their original care application, saying councils should:
“…think long and hard before embarking upon care proceedings against otherwise unimpeachable parents who may justifiably resent recourse to what they are likely to see as an unnecessarily adversarial and punitive remedy.”
And when it came to children with serious illnesses like AB, the President continued, councils seeking care orders needed to consider not only whether particular placements were suitable but also how easy the parents would find it to visit their child in the facility, especially if their condition worsened.
“…it is simply unbearable to contemplate the reaction of parents unable to be with their child at the moment of death because of geography or, even worse, bureaucracy.”
You can read In The Matter of AB (A Child) here.