Local authority breaches Children Act 1989 for failure to provide accommodation to child with unsocialised conduct disorder

Tuesday 24 May 2016

JG, MG v Kent County Council, TG as interested party [2016] EWHC 1102 (Admin)

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JG, MG v Kent County Council, TG as interested party [2016] EWHC 1102 (Admin)

A local authority acted unlawfully in breach of sections 20 and 47 Children Act 1989 in failing to provide accommodation to a child with unsocialised conduct disorder in circumstances where his parents were unable to provide him with full-time suitability accommodation and care given his behaviour, and in failing to protect his siblings from harm from him.

A local authority also acted unfairly in seeking to close the child’s education file when he was temporarily moved from the family home out of the local authority’s area by his parents.

Judicial review brought by parents of a child who suffers from unsocialised conduct disorder to challenge the local authority’s failure to protect the younger children in the family from the violence committed by the child. TG, the child concerned, had special educational needs and documented violent behaviour at school and at home. He was known to social services and the judgment summarises the extent of social services involvement.

The parents had been trying to secure a residential school placement for him due to their not being able to cope with his behaviour and protect their other children in the family home. This was put as both an educational and social care need. In the claim, the parents complained of Kent’s breach of section 17, 20 and 47 Children Act 1989. There was also a claim of a breach of Article 3.

In proceedings, TG was joined as an interested party, represented by the Official Solicitor. The issue he raised was Kent’s decision to close TG’s education file on account of his father taking him to Sunderland to stay with paternal grandparents. The parents’ intention was to separate TG from his siblings until a residential school placement could be identified. Kent took the view that TG was now out of its area and so closed his education file.

The Court held in this case that:

  1. Kent unlawfully discharged a duty under section 20 Children Act 1989; the only rational conclusion that the local authority could have arrived at was that the parents were prevented from providing suitable accommodation and care to TG on a full-time basis. This was so even taking into account the expertise of the social workers involved: [102]
  2. Kent also breached section 47 Children Act 1989 in failing to follow statutory guidance to initiate child protection procedures given the risks to the younger children in the family home: [103-104]
  3. However, the level of harm caused to the younger children did not reach the Article 3, ECHR threshold: [105]
  4. The parents’ decision to take TG to Sunderland to his paternal grandparents must be considered in the light of Kent’s breaches of social services duties and the Court accepted that it would be conspicuously unfair to regard it as anything but a temporary move not capable of discharging education duties or social care duties.

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