Our Director Lisa Phillips appeared in the Court of Appeal in September and the judgment was released yesterday. The case involved a vulnerable child who had been the subject of an application for a place in secure accommodation by a local authority. The application was previously refused by the judge but the court of appeal – whilst recognising the difficult position he was in – disagreed with his decision. However, the most significant factor about the judgment is that it highlights significant problems in the provision of secure accommodation for vulnerable children.
In their judgment the court of appeal was critical of the position younger people find themselves in with severe inadequacies in the provision of secure accommodation.
The case involved a 15-year-old girl, referred to simply as “B” who after a series of incidents in which she harmed, or attempted to harm herself and others, the local authority made an application for B to be placed in secure accommodation under section 25 of The Children Act 1989. She had previously been placed in a local placement that was not registered so the court approved that placement using the inherent jurisdiction of the high court as it amounted to a deprivation of her liberty. The local authority’s proposed placement in secure accommodation was several hundred miles away and the judge at first instance refused the application.
The local authority appealed and the court of appeal agreed recognising the difficulties the judge at first instance found himself in. This outcome highlights the acute lack of suitable secure accommodation throughout the UK. The following are direct quotes from the judgment:
“The context in which this appeal is being considered is what can fairly be described as the crisis in the provision of secure accommodation in England and Wales”…
“..The absence of sufficient resources in such cases means that local authorities are frequently prevented from complying with their statutory obligations to meet the welfare needs of a cohort of vulnerable young people who are at the greatest risk of harm. The provision of such resources is, of course, expensive but the long-term costs of failing to make provision are invariably much greater.”
As experienced specialists in Child Care Law, Court of Protection and Mental Health we have been aware for some time of the shortfall between the growing need for secure units and the level of provision. It is no exaggeration on the part of the judge to describe this as a crisis.
The young person at the heart of this matter was represented in court throughout all stages by our in-house expert Solicitor Advocates.
If you need advice or support on any matters relating to Mental Capacity, Mental Health or Child Care Law, we have highly experienced, knowledgeable teams in all of these specialist areas of the law, with nine of our directors involved directly in working with clients in these areas of the law.
Section 25 of the Children’s Act is one of many areas of the law that members of our team have lectured on and provided training to legal professionals, charities and a wide range of other organisations. You can find out more about our training and events here.