Select Committee on Children, Schools and Families Written Evidence

Annex 2

  This is the case of five children; a group of three siblings and a group of two siblings. They had come into care for some of the most serious reasons possible. With their foster carers life had become better for them. They had lived, according to their reviews, happily for the previous five years, in a large house, near the sea, far away from the inner London borough that was their corporate parent. They all thought that they would be living together until they were 18.

  Things changed one Monday afternoon, Tommy (not real names) aged 12 rang Voice (the advocacy service) at 4 pm to say that their social worker had just visited and told them all that they were being moved the next day at 10.00 am to three separate homes.

  The foster carers had been informed two weeks prior that the children were being moved, this was not because of the quality of their childcare, parenting practice or importantly child protection, but because the foster carers were not co-operating with the borough. They were told "don't tell the children it will upset them".

  A complaint was sent and after negotiations with the authority they agreed that the three siblings could remain in their placement for a few more days, The two siblings had a guardian who had delayed the decision in moving them, but later did in fact countenance their move.

  It then became clear that the authority were still going to move the children for the reasons previously outlined. A solicitor was retained for the children and a temporary injunction was gained on behalf of the children in the high court.

  It was argued that the decision of the authority was unlawful for amongst other reasons:

    —    failure to consult the children as required the Children Act 1989;

    —    the views of children had not been taken into consideration;

    —    the authority had failed to involve the children in the whole process; and

    —    the judge commented on the importance of independent advocacy services like Voice and that without their involvement the case of these children would never have been brought before him.

  It was finally agreed that:

  1.  The authority would not remove the children.

  2.  The decision to remove the children from the care of the foster carers was "procedurally unfair and perverse" because of failure to:

    —    consult the children;

    —    consider the harmful effect of removal from the placement; and

    —    consider or evaluate the children's security in the placement and the progress they had made.

  This case highlights key observations:

  1.  The importance of independent advocates—they were able to advise the young people and challenge the authority's decision in a way that the social worker (who did not agree with the decision to move them) and IRO had not been able to do.

  2.  They were able to ascertain the children's wishes and feelings, which other professionals had failed to do.

  3.  Advocacy provides a procedural safeguard in relation to decisions being made that children and young people are unhappy with.

  There has been a lasting impact on these children from the authority's decision:

  1.  There was a breakdown in the relationship with the young people and professionals from the authority.

  2.  They remain frightened that when the SW comes for reviews that they will be taken away.

  3.  The foster siblings have no contact and believe that they are not together because of something that they have done.

  Involving independent advocates in looked-after children's reviews and care planning, would surely have resulted in a different outcome for these children.

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