Child refusing to eat should not have been made the subject of a Child Protection Plan

Monday 25 July 2016

R. (on the application of O) v Peterborough City Council & Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust (Interested Party), QBD, Administrative Court, unreported, 23 June 2016.

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R (on the application of O) v Peterborough City Council & Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust (Interested Party), QBD, Administrative Court, unreported, 23 June 2016

The child suffered from autism and had refused to eat or drink. The defendant local authority was aware of the situation following the receipt of safeguarding referrals from the child’s paediatrician. The local authority had assessed the family and were satisfied that the mother was doing an excellent job of caring for her daughter.

There then followed a dispute between the mother and the medical team regarding the appropriate treatment. The medical team were in favour of residential treatment. The medical team withdrew and the mother sought a second opinion.

Following a further referral made by the interested party, a professionals meeting was held during which all but the education monitoring officer agreed that the child was being subjected to neglect and should be placed on a Child Protection Plan (CPP) in order for a second medical opinion to be obtained.

The mother issued her claim to challenge this decision.

The CPP was later withdrawn when an agreement was reached that a gastrostomy would be an appropriate step to enable the child to be fed.

The mother argued, and the court accepted, that the withdrawal of the CPP did not render her challenge to the original decision academic. The record of a CPP being imposed would cause detriment to the child and her family, in particular it would cause difficulties for the mother who had previously worked with children and would be required to disclose the CPP imposed on her daughter in any future employment. The mother further argued that the defendant's approach to assessing neglect was flawed and irrational; it was not lawful to impose a CPP as a means to resolve a dispute regarding medical treatment.

Singh J accepted the mother’s submissions and held that the defendant had erred in its understanding of neglect. The defendant’s decision was quashed for being irrational and a declaration was made that the decision was null, void and of no effect.

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