It has been another quiet week for family law news, as the summer holiday lull continues. Still, we should be thankful for small mercies.
Children services at tipping point
In what must be the least unexpected piece of news, it has been reported that government ministers are facing demands from councils across England for emergency funds to protect thousands of vulnerable children. The news comes after figures revealed that last year alone local authorities had to spend £816m more on children’s social care than they had budgeted for.
As a result, senior local government figures are warning that children’s services are reaching a tipping point, as the numbers needing help continue to grow and budgets continue to shrink.
Roy Perry, the vice-chair of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board, said:
“These figures clearly show the huge and increasing financial pressures children’s services are under, with many councils being pushed to the brink by unprecedented demand. It is not just increased pressure for care for the elderly causing the problem for local authority budgets. Councils have done what they can to protect spending on children’s services and have spent over £800m more than they had budgeted for children’s social care. Councils do not want to cut the very services which are designed to help children and families before problems begin or escalate to the point where a child might need to come into care. We are absolutely clear that, unless new funding is found, these vital services, which keep children safe from harm and the worst abuses of society, will reach a tipping point.”
So, will the Government reach into its pocket to provide proper funding for the ever-increasing numbers of vulnerable children that councils are having to deal with, or will we have to wait until there is another tragedy like the Baby P case, as some fear may happen?
An unusual costs order
The Court of Protection has taken the unusual step of making a costs order against both a Local Authority and a Clinical Commissioning Group after they caused a Colombian woman to be trapped in this country for over three years before she was repatriated. In May 2014 the woman collapsed whilst waiting at a bus stop in London. She was taken to a hospital and found to have suffered a cardiac arrest, which caused her to sustain a brain injury. As a result, she lacked the capacity to make decisions for herself, although she made it clear that she wished to return to Colombia, where she could be cared for by her extended family. She may have been ready to be discharged from hospital in 2014, but due to what the judge described as ‘disorganised, muddled and unfocused decision making, and what has at times verged on an arrogance’, she had to wait for more than three years before she returned home in January this year. The judge concluded ‘without hesitation’ that the circumstances of the case were so poor and so extreme that he should make the costs order.
A celebrity divorce
And finally, I don’t usually refer to celebrity divorce cases here, but I thought this one deserves a mention. The actress Geena Davis, who long ago starred in one of my favourite movies Thelma & Louise, has reportedly responded to her husband’s divorce petition by alleging that they were never legally married. She maintains that they had agreed not to complete the legal formalities of their ‘marriage’ seventeen years ago, as they preferred simply to cohabit. Accordingly, says Ms Davis, the divorce petition should be dismissed. It seems the particularly formality that Ms Davis claims were not followed was that the couple’s marriage licence was not returned to the court clerk after their private wedding ceremony, as it should have been. I’m not sure of the details, but I don’t think that such an issue could arise in this country, as a marriage here must, of course, be conducted by a person, or in the presence of a person, authorised to register marriages, and they would obviously ensure that the marriage was properly registered. Still, a fascinating scenario, and it will be interesting to find out the outcome.
Have a good weekend.