Can you Refuse to Agree to Section 20 Accommodation?

Author:
Patricia Cannon
Partner, Head of Care Proceedings Law
Date:
21/07/2022

Yes, you can. A Section 20 is a voluntary agreement wherein social workers invite a person with Parental Responsibility to agree to have their child temporarily placed in alternative accommodation such as foster care.

Under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989, the Local Authority has a responsibility to arrange suitable accommodation for any child in their area whose current living arrangements are deemed to be unsafe.

Some of the main reasons for a Section 20 being applied include:

  • the person responsible for caring for the child is no longer able to provide suitable care and accommodation;
  • the child is lost or has been abandoned;
  • no person has parental responsibility for the child.

If a social worker has asked you to consider Section 20, you might understandably be feeling worried or panicked about what happens next. It’s important that you consider your options carefully before making any decisions.

Our experienced Care Proceedings Solicitors can advise you on the terms of your Section 20 agreement so that you are fully informed of the implications before any further action is taken. Get in touch today for initial advice.

What Should be Considered Before Agreeing to a Section 20?

The terms of each Section 20 agreement will differ, so it’s important that you understand the consequences of what you’re entering into before giving your consent.

Some points to consider before agreeing to a Section 20 include:

  • the extent of time proposed for your child to be accommodated;
  • if there will be a pre-proceedings meeting;
  • whether any investigations will be carried out.

If you decide to agree to a Section 20, you should request written confirmation of this.

You may also be asked to sign a “Contract of Expectations” which will outline what is expected of you and your Local Authority while the agreement is in place.

Although you are within your rights to refuse Section 20 accommodation for your child, social workers may still decide to apply for a Court Order if they believe the child should be removed from your care.

What Happens if I Refuse?

If you decide to refuse a Section 20 agreement, and the Local Authority does not want the child to remain in your home, they may apply for one of the following:

  • Interim Care Order – this is an order under which the Local Authority will share Parental Responsibility with you.
  • Emergency Protection Order – these Court Orders are rare and will only be made when a social worker believes a child is at immediate risk of actual harm and needs to be removed to a place of safety.

It is also possible that the police may intervene and place the child under Police Protection – in what they consider to be suitable accommodation for up to 72 hours.

It is important that you consider these implications before deciding to refuse a Section 20 agreement. Our Care Proceedings Solicitors have expertise in this area and can help you make a decision that will be in your child’s best interest.

How can a Solicitor Help?

Whilst social workers have a duty to make sure you have the information and ability to give consent to a Section 20 agreement, you are also entitled to seek legal advice before making a decision.

Our Care Proceedings Solicitors will use their experience to make sure you are informed of each potential outcome before proceeding any further. We will listen to your situation and work to get the best outcome for you.

For free legal advice call our Care Proceedings Solicitors

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