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