LGA: Action research into improvement in local children's services: the LGA commissioned Isos Partnership to look at how local children's services can best be supported to improve rapidly and in a sustained way. This interim report aims to provide a rich evidence base on the challenges and opportunities being faced by local authorities in adapting to the current challenging context, combined with practical examples and case studies of good and innovative emerging practice. It identifies seven key enablers of children's services improvement. It is hoped that these will be of direct value both to policy makers in central government and local authorities themselves. The next stage of the research will use an action learning approach to model and test different approaches to improvement. (3 March 2016)
DfE: Practice and improvement fund – Adoption services: this guide sets out an explanation of the practice and improvement fund for adoption services. Up to £14m will be available for the programme in 2016-17 and 2017-18. The fund aims to inspire the transformation of adoption services and those services that adopted children and families rely on at a regional and national level. The first application round is for voluntary adoption agencies and other voluntary sector organisations. The closing date for bids is 3 June 2016. (20 April 2016)
Re C (Children)  EWCA Civ 374 (CA): this case considered the extent to which a local authority could or should exercise its shared responsibility in order to determine the name that a child in their care should be given. The local authority applied to the court to invoke its inherent jurisdiction under s.100 Children Act 1989 to prevent M, a mother, from registering her twin children with the forenames of her choice, namely "Preacher" and "Cyanide".
The court held, granting the application, that the naming of a child was not merely a right or privilege, but also a responsibility. Although the local authority might have the statutory power under s.33(3)(b) to prevent M from calling the twins "Preacher" and "Cyanide", there was a small category of cases where, notwithstanding the local authority's powers under s.33(3)(b), the consequences of the exercise of a particular act of parental responsibility were so profound and had such an impact on either the child his or herself, and/or the Art.8 rights of those other parties who shared parental responsibility with a local authority, that the matter must come before the court for its consideration and determination. There might be rare cases where a local authority believed that the forename chosen by a parent, and by which he or she intended to register a child, went beyond the unusual, bizarre, extreme or plain foolish, and instead gave the local authority reasonable cause to believe that by calling the child that name, they were likely to be caused significant harm. In those highly unusual circumstances, the proper route by which the local authority sought to ensure that the course it proposed was necessary and in the child's interests, was by putting the matter before the High Court by way of an application to invoke its inherent jurisdiction. (14 April 2016)
W (A Child: Designation of Local Authority)  EWCA Civ 366 (CA): Medway Council appealed against the judge's decision designating it as the responsible local authority for W, an 8 months old baby girl. Prior to W's birth, her mother had spent time living in Dorset and Kent. W was born in Portsmouth and then went with her mother to the home of the maternal great grandmother in Medway. On her discharge from hospital after the birth, the mother entered in to a 'working together agreement' with Kent CC. The agreement between Kent CC, the mother, the maternal grandfather and the maternal great grandmother stated that the named members of the extended family were to be responsible for the supervision of the care of W and it specified that W was to live at the home of the maternal great grandmother in Medway until Kent CC found a 'suitable placement'. Kent CC issued care proceedings and obtained an interim care order. When W was less than two weeks old, Kent CC provided a mother and baby placement in East Sussex. Medway submitted that the working together agreement amounted to accommodation provided for or on behalf of Kent CC so that under s.105(6) of the Children Act 1989, the period of the placement with the mother's family in Medway had to be disregarded when determining "ordinary residence". Kent CC argued that the working together agreement was a voluntary child protection agreement reached until a more suitable placement could be identified. Both Kent CC and Dorset CC contended that the background circumstances were such that it was clear that neither the mother nor W were ordinarily resident in either of their authorities.
The court held, dismissing the appeal, that the test for ordinary residence was one of fact and should not be made into an overly complicated exercise. The judge's decision was not perverse. The plain language of the working together agreement presented a formidable obstacle to the submission that W was accommodated or placed by Kent CC with the extended family in Medway. The agreement was no more than an unenforceable child protection arrangement, albeit failure to abide by it would have led to the removal of W. The document was not phrased as a s.20 accommodation agreement or a plan to accommodate or place W as a looked after child. This document on its own was not sufficient to infer that the arrangement in Medway should be disregarded as 'accommodation provided by or on behalf of the local authority' in accordance with s.105(6). If W was not accommodated or placed by Kent CC with the extended family in Medway the disregard did not apply and as between Kent and Medway, W lived for the whole of the relevant period in Medway with her primary carer. At no material time did she or her mother live in Kent, whatever may have been agreed in the safe discharge plan or whatever might have been expected or intended after her mother left Dorset. The judge found as a fact that W had never lived in Kent or Dorset and that could not seriously be contradicted. (19 April 2016)