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ADCS/CAFCASS practice guidance on the use of section 20 CA 1989

On 1 April 2016, the ADCS and CAFCASS jointly issued Practice Guidance for the Use of Section 20 Provision in the Children Act 1989.

The guidance follows strong and repeated judicial criticism of the inappropriate use of section 20, for excessive periods as a prelude to care proceedings and/or without properly informed parental consent, most notably from the President of the Family Division in Re N [2015] EWCA Civ 1112.

The guidance "share[s] judicial concern about those s20 cases which have drifted without decent care plans for children", but goes on to set out the circumstances in which positive use can be made of section 20 accommodation, including for:

1. Children whose parents are unable to care for them for a short period, for example due to hospital admission or the child's additional needs.

2. Unaccompanied children from abroad, including those seeking asylum.

3. Children whose relationship with their parents has broken down.

4. Children whose parents have always intended that they should be put up for adoption.

The guidance stresses the importance of the local authority obtaining properly informed consent, in accordance with the guidelines set out in Re N, and that "as soon as the care plan changes away from a return home to a need for a longer period in care, the child should be subject to the same permanency planning considerations as all other children in care".


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