Court rules against Local Authority in favour of sister caring for ‘severely neglected’ brother
A sister in the North East was asked to care for her brother Thomas in September 2017 following Social Services involvement with his parents over neglect and drug abuse.
The Council issued Care Proceedings in October with an initial plan for Amy to obtain a Child Arrangement Order for Thomas. Amy was signposted to Ridley & Hall by Grandparents Plus who were concerned about the impact that a Child Arrangement Order would have on her as a carer for Thomas.
Helen Moody, specialist Kinship Care Solicitor at Ridley & Hall, commented, “Amy had no reason to question what the Local Authority had suggested in terms of Order. She only began to question it after speaking to Grandparents Plus and she was referred to me.
I explained to her that as her brother was currently classed as a ‘looked after’ child because the Local Authority placed him with her, she was entitled to receive a fostering allowance and Local Authority support. I advised her that this support was likely to, at best reduce and at worst, cease all together under a Child Arrangement Order.
Amy was horrified. I explained that I felt initially the Local Authority should obtain an Interim Care Order which would see the current arrangements for support continue and would maintain the status quo especially so soon into the placement.”
Ridley & Hall represented Amy at the initial hearing. Thankfully the Local Authority conceded that continued support was required at this stage and the Court granted an Interim Care Order.
Despite a psychological report stating very clearly that continued support would be required for the family in order to prevent a breakdown, the Local Authority asked the Court to make a Special Guardianship Order. This meant that Amy would go from approximately £160 per week to care for Thomas to under £300 a month for one year only. It also meant that she would have to be responsible for managing contact with Thomas’s parents who both still had drug issues. Support for any future therapy would be extremely limited if indeed, it was there at all.
Amy felt very anxious about being left to deal with all of these issues alone. Although she had the best intentions of caring for her brother throughout his childhood, there was a real worry that she may not have been able to manage Thomas’s needs together with her own two children.
Despite a strong statement filed on behalf of Amy, the Local Authority still held their position and felt that above everything, a Special Guardianship Order was most suitable.
At the final hearing, the Local Authority set this out for the Court.
Helen Moody explained; “I reminded the Court that they could not force a Special Guardianship Order on a carer if that is not what they want. Unfortunately some Courts do this despite strong evidence that without ongoing support under a Care Order, there is a real risk of breakdown in the future.”
Thankfully in this case Ms Moody successfully persuaded the Court that a Care Order was the most appropriate Order and they did not make a Special Guardianship Order.
“The impact of this on Amy and Thomas will be huge. She will continue to receive non-means tested fostering allowances whilst ever the Order is in place. The Local Authority will take responsibility for supervising the contact between Thomas and his parents. They will keep all the arrangements under review and should Thomas require support services in the future, he will be treated as a priority and benefit from ongoing reviews.”
Amy commented “I cannot thank Helen enough. She knew exactly how the different Orders would affect me in the future and advised me about the pitfalls. I know for certain that had I not sought her advice, a Special Guardianship Order would have been granted and that would have led to almost certain breakdown in the future. The effect on my brother of a breakdown would have been catastrophic. I would urge anyone in a similar situation to seek legal advice from Ridley & Hall”.