On 10 July 2017, the Family Rights Group launched the 'Your Family, Your Voice Alliance Knowledge Inquiry' report on section 20 voluntary arrangements for children coming into the care system. Garden Court Chambers was delighted to host the launch of the report.
The report found that 163 children in care under a voluntary arrangement have been placed with foster carers who are already approved as suitable adopters since fostering for adoption legislation came into force three years ago. 111 of these are new born babies aged under 6 weeks old. The inquiry found that in many cases the parents will not have had access to free legal advice or court scrutiny of the decision.
The inquiry asked:
- What was the original purpose and intention behind section 20 Children Act 1989?
- Is that original purpose and intent still valid and relevant today?
- How is section 20 presently being used in England and Wales?
- What needs to change and what are the priorities?
The Your Family, Your Voice Alliance seeks to influence law, policy and practice to improve families' lives including safeguarding children. The Family Rights Group become concerned about the use, or potential misuse, of Section 20, as families were saying that their rights and abilities to exercise their responsibilities were being curtailed even though their children were voluntarily accommodated under Section 20. A number of court judgments also raised concerns about how Section 20 was being used in individual situations.
The Guardian has covered the report here:
The following speakers were at the launch:
Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division
Jenny, Member of Family Rights Groups Parents’ Panel
Caroline Lynch, Principal Legal Adviser at Family Rights Group
Nancy, Family and Friends carer
Alasdair Smith, Director of Children and Families, London Borough of Southwark
Robert Tapsfield, Co-chair, Your Family, Your Voice
Angela Frazer-Wicks, Co-chair, Your Family, Your Voice