Section 20 Written Agreement


Problems have arisen when parents feel that they have been “rushed” or even harassed to make a decision to place their children in Section 20. Sometimes the Las only get the consent of one parent, but from the other objects. An LA should always try to obtain the agreement of all those who have parental responsibility. Prolonged use of section 20 outside the procedure described above deprives the child: the agreement referred to in section 20, in the context of legal proceedings, often involves an agreement for the parents, who notify the local authority, seven or fourteen days in advance, of their intention to withdraw their consent. The Chairman, Sir James Munby, said he was “extremely sceptical” that a legal treaty in Section 20(8) could have prior legal effect. Parents detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 (Section 2 and Section 3) – if a parent is detained under the Mental Health Act 1983, they are unlikely to be able to give meaningful consent to a accommodation contract under Section 20. Nor should the parent be treated as if he or she had left the child or was prevented, for any reason, from providing appropriate housing or care for the child. The local authority should wait a short period without any care procedure to check the progress made by parents in the hospital if their ability to care for their child could return. The social worker must discuss this with the parents` “clinician in charge”. The courts have pointed out that a reasonable period of seventy-two hours limits this period to that of the police using their police protection powers.

But it is unclear how to interpret the events of July 9, when parents went to the Council`s offices to demand, according to them, the return of their children. The judge accepted the social worker`s denial that she had told them that the children would never be returned. But he probably found that they were told that the document they signed allowed the children to be kept, because that`s what she believed at the time. He went on to say, however, that “it is difficult to determine whether and, if so, under what conditions their children have been requested for the return”. In the light of its previous findings concerning the events of 6 July, the Panel made no comments in this regard (para. 68). It is therefore difficult for us to interpret these events either as a clear objection to the accommodation of children under Article 20(7) or as an explicit invitation to immediate restitution in accordance with Article 20(8). There is no point in referring the case back to the judge so that he can make findings in this case.

It is quite clear that at that time he would have considered continued interference in family life as a proportionate means of protecting children from harm. Even if the events of 9 July had removed for a few days the legal basis of the action of the local authority, which must be doubtful, no compensation would have to be paid under these conditions. The court had serious doubts about the reality of parental consent in the case of P (A Child: Use of Section 20) [2014] EWFC 775. The judge commented in section 32 that any person with parental responsibility may voluntarily allow the local authority to house his or her child in accordance with section 20 of the Children Act 1989. Section 20 is a “voluntary dwelling”, although parents often have no choice but to give their consent when asked to do so. Voluntary accommodation can be provided either with formal carers of the local authority or with a family member approved by the local authority (often a grandparent). Often, article 20 agreements go hand in hand with other written agreements; for example, to determine what the LA wants parents to do or stop while their child is in foster care. . . .