The recent case of A and S, two brothers who went into the care of Lancashire County Council in 1998 and for the next 14 years of their lives had 173 placements in total, has brought to light a shocking problem that exists in the country’s care system. The two brothers, represented by myself, were said by the Court to be ‘statutory orphans’ on account of the way they have been left to drift through the system, without ever having any real fixed abode or anyone, apart from each other, to call ‘family’.
In his Judgment, delivered at Liverpool High Court, Judge Mr Justice Peter Jackson confirmed that “these boys have suffered real, lifelong damage and they are now entitled to demand an effort of understanding.’
Yet despite the Judge’s words, Justice Jackson commented that Lancashire County Council had not “filed evidence that explains its actions down the years and it has only offered a limited apology to the boys’.
In addition, the Independent Reviewing Officer, a role that can be compared to a Safety Officer or Quality Control Supervisor within the Local Authority, when questioned at the Hearing concerning the boys accepted that “until the IRO service is resourced properly it cannot be fit for purpose’.
The ruling in relation to the boys’ case secured Declarations that Lancashire County Council and the IRO had breached Articles 3, 6 and 8 of our clients’ human rights.
It is extremely troubling that Courts are uncovering real failures to protect children within the care system, such as those that have occurred in A and S’ case. This is especially concerning considering that at the same time; the Court is being actively discouraged from scrutinising plans for children either effectively, or at all.
If you have any concerns in relation to the way a local authority or social services has handled a care plan, or indeed any aspect of family law, please do not hesitate to contact a solicitor from our specialist team.
By Antonia Love, Family Law Solicitor