What is a Section 20 Agreement? A Section 20 agreement allows the local authority to accommodate your child on a temporary basis. This agreement must be by consent of persons with parental responsibility for the child(ren) in question. There is no legal requirement stipulating that this agreement needs to be in writing; however, the consenting parties must be capacitous and understand the ramifications of consenting to such an agreement.
In simpler terms, the parents must understand why their child(ren) are being removed, must understand that this is a temporary measure and that if the local authority wish for this to be a long term measure that an application must be made to the courts, must understand that their consent can be withdrawn at any time and that the local authority must return the child to the parents care or alternatively seek an order from the court for continued accommodation after withdrawal of consent.
Misuse of Section 20 Agreement ‘must stop’. Sir James Munby identified four problems with the current use of Section 20:
- Failure of councils to get informed consent from the parents from the outset.
- How consent is recorded by local authorities. There is no requirement, in law, for the agreement to be in or evidenced by writing, “but a prudent local authority will surely always wish to ensure that an alleged parental consent in such a case is properly recorded in writing and evidenced by the parents’ signature,” Munby said.
- That section 20 arrangements are allowed to continue for far too long.
- Local authorities are reluctant to return the child to the parent(s) immediately after parental consent is withdrawn.
There has been an abundance of recent case law setting out instances where children have been wrongfully removed from the care of their parent(s).
Are you a parent who has experienced this; if the answer is yes, look no further, contact GC Solicitors on 01462 483 800 and we will advise you on the best course of action and fight your corner, based on your individual experiences.
Vyonne Manuel, March 2018