Children’s Return Secured

B (Children) [2012] EWCA Civ 1901

David Jockelson, assisted by Elizabeth Cleaver, acted for foster parents of children cared for under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989, a voluntary agreement between the Local Authority and those with parental responsibility for the children.

The Local Authority had failed to implement a Court of Appeal decision supporting the Section 20 aim of securing a successful return home. The children’s grandmother argued that the children should be immediately returned to her care and ultimately to Slovakia.

Even after a supplementary judgment, the Local Authority had not made cohesive proposals or progress towards implementing a residence order in favour of the grandmother and there was no agreement about arrangements for returning the children to her care.

Instead, the Local Authority sought an interim care order which would expire when the children were returned to Slovakia.

Thorpe LJ determined that he could not disregard the need for a gradual return but criticised the local authority’s intentional delays including not progressing the grandmother’s contact with the children.

He directed that the transition plan should include unsupervised contact to the grandmother and asked for undertakings from the family that they would not withdraw their consent to the Section 20 placement during the transition plan, which would end with the return of the children to Slovakia, refusing the local authority permission to appeal or application for a stay.