QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
Strand, London WC2A 2LL
Handed down in the High Court at Leeds,
B e f o r e :
| THE QUEEN (on the application of LH and MH)
|THE LONDON BOROUGH OF LAMBETH
Mr.Jon Holbrook (instructed by Sternberg Reed Taylor and Gill) appeared for the Defendant.
Crown Copyright ©
The procedural history
The new grounds
(i) The Defendant is in breach of its obligation (both statutory and pursuant to the consent order) to complete its care plan. The enquiry of Dr.Sarah Thompson, Clinical Psychologist, is outstanding and no proposals for working with the social worker have been made.
(ii) The conclusion that a "parenting" programme or strategy is capable of meeting the needs of LH is irrational, in the light of the background. The views of professionals and assessors have either not been obtained or have been disregarded.
(iii) Even if such a programme or strategy were possible, it would not, in the light of the background, be proper to pursue it unless there is evidence that it might work and unless there was close monitoring.
(iv) The Defendant has failed to comply with its statutory obligations to consider the case in the round, considering together the educational, health and social care interests of LH.
"It shall be a general duty of every local authority …
(a) to safeguard and promote the welfare of children within their area who are in need; and
(b) so far as is consistent with that duty, to promote the upbringing of such children by their families,
by providing a range and level of services appropriate to those children's needs".
"(a) he is unlikely to achieve or maintain, or to have the opportunity of achieving or maintaining, a reasonable standard of health or development without the provision for him of services by a local authority …;
(b) his health or development is likely to be significantly impaired, or further impaired, without the provision for him of such services; or
(c) he is disabled": section 17(10).
" … a child is disabled if he … suffers from a mental disorder of any kind or is substantially and permanently handicapped by illness, injury or congenital deformity … ;
"development" means physical, intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development;": section 17(11).
"Where it appears to a local authority that a child within their area is in need, the authority may assess his needs for the purposes of this Act at the same time as any assessment of his needs is made under –
(a) the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970;
(b) Part IV of the Education Act 1996 [which deals with Special Educational Needs ("SEN")];
"41. … the whole tenor of the Framework document and of the other guidance … is that the outcome of the child protection path for a child in need should be something equivalent to a core assessment; and if that has not been achieved by the time of deregistration, it should be achieved at that point if the child remains a child in need. There should be a systematic assessment of needs which takes into account the three domains (child's developmental needs, parenting capacity, family and environmental factors) and involves collaboration between all relevant agencies so as to achieve a full understanding of the child in his or her family and community context. It is important, moreover, to be clear about the three-stage process: identification of needs, production of a care plan, and provision of the identified services. It seems to me that where an authority follows a path that does not involve the preparation of a core assessment as such, it must nevertheless adopt a similarly systematic approach with a view to achievement of the same objectives. Failure to do so without good cause will constitute an impermissible departure from the guidance."
He criticised the assessment in the particular case because there was "no clear identification of needs, or what was to be done about them, by whom and by when".
"The arrangements are to be made with a view to improving the well-being of children in the authority's area so far as relating to –
(a) physical and mental health and emotional well-being;
(b) protection from harm and neglect;
(c) education, training and recreation;
(d) the contribution made by them to society;
(e) social and economic well-being".
"… the primary decision maker is the … Council and not the court. The court's function in this type of dispute is essentially one of review – review of the … Council's decision, whatever it may be – rather than of primary decision making. It is not the function of the court itself to come to its own assessment of what is in these children's best interests."
There is abundant authority, which Munby J. cited and which I need not repeat, for those propositions.
The new assessment
"The issues with regard to LH's behaviour in the home will be addressed by liaising with Dr.Sarah Thompson from the Mary Sheridan Centre to see what strategies could be put in place for [LH] and support given to [MH] to implement this.
It is clear and evident from reading the core assessment that by [sic] placing [LH] in a residential placement will be detrimental to his wellbeing. We will monitor the home situation closely and review the support package within three months".
"[MH's] needs can best be addressed by:
"Helping her to develop a better ways of dealing with [LH]. In particular she needs to recognise the need to impose boundaries on [LH's] behaviour and she needs to be able to encourage him to develop his personal skills such as getting up and getting dressed by himself in the mornings. I will work with [MH] on these issues".
The up to date situation
Submissions and conclusions