Did the Cost of Care Really Justify the Removal of a Child?


The recent news headlines stating that a judge made the decision to remove a disabled child from his learning disabled mother's care because of the extensive cost of social care support has sparked controversy, with the judge disputing claims that the removal was "social engineering."

Did the Cost of Care Really Justify the Removal of a Child?

Headlines such as, "Judge removes child from disabled mother over costs of care" (Telegraph, 3rd Sept 15), imply that the decision to remove the child was made because it was too expensive to continue to provide social care. Our Associate and Family Law Specialist, Jenna Eldrett, is looking past the headlines to find out what may have been the real reason behind this decision.

The Decision to Remove the Child

The boy, aged 5, whose functioning was that of a 30 month old, was removed from the care of his mother after an application was made by Buckinghamshire County Council. Judge Antony Hughes ruled in favour of the local authority, approved a care plan for adoption, and explained that the child needs a "permanent substitute family."

All of the experts in the case, the local authority assessors, the social worker and the child's guardian were unanimous in advising the judge that on her own the mother was not able to provide good enough care for the child who, by the time of the hearing, was found already to have "a high level of need as a consequence of his developmental delay".

In response to a social worker who had given evidence claiming that removing the child would be "social engineering", Judge Hughes explained that this was not that the case, and that "The mother's own disability renders it impossible, particularly over time, to meet the boy's developing needs."

It was generally agreed that the mother would need a very high level of support to enable her to care for the child, whose level of need was much higher than other children of the same age, and for him to reach his full potential. One witness went so far as to say that the mother would not be able to meet the child's needs unless someone was with her "all the time". In the absence of family members capable of providing this sort of round the clock support this would have involved a team of professional workers providing a constant presence in the family home.

The judge concluded that "the level of support required in relation to such an arrangement would be so extensive as to be detrimental to the boy's welfare."

Our Family Law Solicitor Explains

Jenna is based in our Bristol office, and has a great deal of experience handling cases involving disputes about children and involving social services. Jenna explains;

"Although it is a headline grabbing title, it is important to remember judges deal with cases on a case by case basis. At Simpson Millar I have been involved in cases where parents needed support from the local authority and the children were able to return home with a package of support. Sometimes, however, the package of support required is too great and the level of intervention can compromise the child's welfare. In this case, despite the headlines, the judge did not refer once to the “cost” of providing the required support."

"In all decisions affecting a child's life, the child's welfare is the judge's primary consideration, and it must have been found to be in the welfare interests of the boy to remove him from his mother's care."

You can read a copy of the full judgment here: http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWFC/OJ/2015/B123.html

At Simpson Millar LLP, our award winning Family Law team are experienced in handling complex cases involving disputes over children. Our team are on hand to help should you need any legal advice and support.

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