Care proceedings are Court proceedings issued by a Local Authority. If social services are very worried about a child then they may seek advice about whether or not the legal threshold for Local Authority intervention is met.  The Local Authority may apply for a care order or a supervision order in respect of the child. If a care order is made, then the Local Authority will share in parental responsibility for that child and sometimes the child is removed from their family either temporarily or on a permanent basis if things cannot be turned around in time.

So what happens to children when they are removed from their families and fall under the care of the state? One might be inclined to presume that given the child would have to have been deemed to be at risk of significant harm for a care order to be made by the Court, that the standard of care afforded to them when looked after by the state would be a safe haven and hopefully the polar opposite of whatever difficulties within their home life had led to their removal. Within a country that has one of the best economies within the world, it ought to be assumed that the most vulnerable would be cared for.

Our children’s commissioner for England, Anne Elizabeth Longfield OBE, former Chief Executive of the charity ‘4Children’ suggests otherwise, stating instead that the most vulnerable children are being “failed by the state” and a broken residential care system. She has recently published new research with a conclusion that the government has failed to respond to previous warnings that thousands of these children are in danger of becoming victims of criminal and sexual exploitation.

All three reports published highlight a shortage of children’s home places, leading to;

  • 8,000 children moving between three or more homes within a year
  • 13,000 children in unregulated homes at some point during a year
  • Hundreds unable to get places in a secure children’s homes

Ms Longfield writes; “Only last month, a High Court judge wrote to me after an extremely vulnerable child in care could not get a suitable care home place anywhere in the country, even though the courts had found their life was in danger,” said Ms Longfield.

“These shocking cases used to be rare but are now routine, and I am worried the whole system is becoming immune to the devastating effect this is having on children who may have previously been abused and neglected, or have serious mental or physical health needs.”

Ms Longfield makes reference to the fact that local authority and publicly owned provision has not kept up with demand. She states;

The growing reliance on private providers, some of whom are making millions, is another symptom of a system failing to prioritise the needs of children.”

The Guardian reports that fewer than one in five children’s homes is run by a council and, according to the Ofsted inspectorate, more than a quarter of English councils have no provision of their own within their boundaries.

The Children’s Society is very concerned about how children in care are being failed by the very services who are supposed to be caring for and protecting them.

The Local Government Association, which represents councils across England, says it shares the commissioner’s concerns about the risk of businesses running children’s homes going bust.

Judith Blake, who chairs the LGA’s Children and Young People Board has stated “Providers should also not be making excessive profit from providing placements for children”.

A Department for Education statement said: “The education secretary has been clear that no child should be denied the opportunity for a loving, stable family life, or be bounced around the care system in accommodation that does not meet their needs.

We have also set out that children under the age of 16 should not be living in unregulated homes. Our bold, broad and independently led care review will launch as soon as possible, and will support improvements in the children’s social care system.”

We can help

Care proceedings can be very stressful for all parties involved – parents and children. At Ringrose Law, we have a specialist team that represent parents (and children) day in day out. It is important that advice is sought when in these types of proceedings. If social services are involved with your children Ringrose Law can offer support and advice in how to navigate their processes.

We have offices across Lincolnshire and Newark or you can email us at wecanhelp@ringroselaw.co.uk

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