QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
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LEICESTER CITY COUNCIL & LONDON BOROUGH OF HILLINGDON
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Mr A Sharland (instructed by Legal Department, Leicester City Council) appeared on behalf of the First Defendant
Mr J Moffett (instructed by Legal Department, London Borough of Hillingdon) appeared on behalf of the Second Defendant
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His Honour Judge Farmer:
"On 31 August 2007 Miss Ephrem spoke directly with [A]. Miss Ephrem advised her that by moving out of the London Borough of Hillingdon she would no longer be looked after but that she could return to Hillingdon to be supported with accommodation and Hillingdon would continue to support her with advice and guidance. [A] was advised that she would need to seek any other support from her local social services. [A] informed her she would not be coming back to live in Hillingdon.
22. Following the conversation referred to in paragraph 21 on 31 August 2007, Miss Ephrem telephoned Uxbridge police, referred to the client's CAD reference number and informed them that she is now in Leicester and gave her address. She requested they inform Leicester Police to visit and ensure client is in a safe place.
23. On 12 September 2007 Miss Ephrem made contact with [A] who confirmed that she did not wish to return to Hillingdon. [A] confirmed that the police had visited her and asked her if she was okay. Miss Ephrem informed her she would no longer be accommodated by the London Borough of Hillingdon and that if she required other support she should contact social services in Leicester.
24. On 12 September 2007 Miss Ephrem telephoned both Uxbridge and Leicester police who confirmed that Leicester police visited and spoke to [A] at the address she went to and verified [A] was safe and well. No concerns were raised. They also informed the Metropolitan police of the situation. Miss Ephrem requested a full report of the visit.
25. On 12 September 2007 Miss Ehprem sent a letter to Leicester Social Services informing them of [A] and her address and that she had voluntarily moved to live with family fiends in their area and is no longer accommodated by Hillingdon. We confirmed that Leicester Police visited the address and have verified that she is safe and well. She informed them that [A] does not wish to return to Hillingdon and is a child in need in their area who may need advice and guidance."
"Re [A], date of birth 23 August 1990:
This is to inform you that the subject young girl, an unaccompanied asylum seeker, has voluntarily moved to live with family friends in your area and is now no longer accommodated by Hillingdon. She is now living with Mrs Noura Mohammed Alaoui at 6 Hollins Road, Leicester LE3 1QU, mobile 07818617479. Leicester Police visited the place on 31 August 2007 and have verified that she is safe and well. [A] says that she is happy where she is and does not wish to return to Hillingdon. As she is a child in need in your area, we have advised her that she may contact your office for advice and guidance whenever she feels the need to.
Thank you for your assistance."
"Your department informed us that [A] had moved to Leicester voluntarily in order to stay with family and friends, having been accommodated by your department. She presented to you as an unaccompanied asylum seeker. I am given to understand that she was accommodated by yourself for 13 weeks. Upon her discharge from your care you asked Leicester Police to visit and you were told that she was safe and well. You furthermore advised her that your judgement was that she was a child in need and that she should contact this department for advice and guidance. She has no recourse to public funds and you have closed your involvement.
From the very beginning of this episode we have maintained that [A] remains the responsibility of Hillingdon. Not surprisingly she and her whole family have contacted us requesting financial support. This was entirely foreseeable and I see no evidence of Hillingdon undertaking any form of assessment upon her discharge from care other than asking for a police safe and well check. As a young person who [sic] you had a responsibility for does not have recourse to public funds, it seems disingenuous for you to close the case in this knowledge. It seems to me additionally that given you have not assessed where she now is, it is hard for you to be clear that this is a safe placement for her. A responsible authority would assess this as well as have a robust discussion with carers to ensure they know what it is they are agreeing to. I would argue that if any such arrangement breaks down, your department continue to have full responsibly. It cannot be the case that you discharge your duties under Section 20 and 24 as you have done. You have disregarded your legal as well as safeguarding duties towards [A]. It seems astonishing that when you accommodated her earlier this year you paid her subsistence of £101 fortnightly. It is our view that given she presented to you as a U.A.S, your duties to support her continue beyond her own de-accommodation. She has continued to be advised that Leicester CYPS hold Hillingdon responsible. This view has been conveyed to her advocate. I look forward to your response."
"[A] is an unaccompanied minor. [A] said that she has been in Leicester after leaving Hillingdon. [A] said that she has been staying with family friends at 16 Hollins Road, Leicester. [A] said that she has current status in the UK and is an asylum seeker. Mohamed (family friend) said that [A] cannot receive support from NASS as she is under 18. [A] requested financial assistance and said that she used to receive financial support from Hillingdon. A call was made to Hillingdon SSD stating that they should still hold case responsibility and that they should have visited the family in Leicester and checked them out. DEEPA (social worker from Hillingdon) said that she only visit [sic] service users in London. Seble (Hillingdon) said that the police carried out a safe and well check on 31 August 2007 and confirmed that she was safe and well. The assessment worker informed Seble that he did not agree with this and there was hardly any difference that [A] had come to Leicester of her own volition or it was agreed that should live here by Hillingdon [sic]. The family in Leicester would still have needed to be assessed by Hillingdon and support put in place for [A]. The duty team manager advised that [A] should return to Hillingdon in order that they carry on with supporting [A], and if they want [A] to stay permanently with the family friends they would have to go through the correct procedure. Should [A] state that she has no bus fare to get to Hillingdon, we could provide her with the bus fare to get there."
Under the rubric of 'What are the views of the child?', the claimant is recorded as saying:
"[A] is seeking financial assistance and support to continue to live with family friends."
"[A] was unsettled whilst living at home in Somalia due to the level of violence surrounding the community. Her father was shot in 2003 and her mother in 2005. This had a detrimental effect on [A], causing her to decide to flee from her country to seek refuge in another country. She left with some friends and eventually went to Kenya. She was deserted by her friends and eventually got connected to an agent who forged a passport for her to come to the United Kingdom. [A] has three brothers and two sisters. She has, however, lost contact with them and has not seen them since fleeing from Somalia. Since being in England [A] is more comfortable, but due to a lack of income she feels that she has lost her pride in being a young woman as she needs things that a young woman has for their esteem. She left Hillingdon to move to Leicester to be with friends that have given her support and knew her from a child. She left because of fear as to what would happen to her next as she had been placed in a detention centre and prison before. [A] sleeps on the family sofa and feels that she is being a burden on the family and would like to be able to have her own place in time. She is, however, happy that she is at the family home as there was a sense of uncertainty when she was in London as she did not know when she may have been placed in a detention centre or prison again."
"[A] appears to have maintained some links with her carers who is said [sic] to have left Somalia for eight years. She met the family unexpectedly in a McDonald's Restaurant near to the hostel where she was staying after the family was in London visiting someone from the same area. As she does not have any other friends and family in this country, her carer's family have been an important support structure for her. [A] states that she has a good relationship with the children in the family. She is more close to Fatima (19) and Sania (13), who are more her peers. [A] says that she has helped out with childcare for Samiha (1) and Salma with nappy changes and have [sic] on occasions given baths. [A] has no friendship network outside Mrs Noura and Mohamed Yousif and their family. [A] said that she could confide in Mrs Noura and also has occasional telephone contact from Pauline who was her key social worker at the hostel where she lived in Hillingdon."
"The family are practising Muslims and attend mosque and other religious events in the community based at St Matthew's, Leicester. The family lives in a three bedded room house owned by a housing association but managed by the local authority. Mohamed Yousif and Mohamed share a room together. Noura share [sic] a room with Salma and Samiha. Fatima and Sania share a room. [A] sleeps on the settee in the lounge."
"[A] came to Leicester to live with Noura Alaouri and Mohamed Yousif. Noura and Mohamed are cousins and knew [A] from Somalia where they were neighbours. Mohamed and Noura fled to the United Kingdom from violence eight years ago as [A] did in March 2007. Noura has five children, Fatima (19), Sania (13), Mohamed (16) Salma (3) and Samiha (1). The family live in a small three bed roomed house. The family lives in cramped conditions although the home is well presented and clean. From discussions with [A] and mostly Mohamed, it appears that [A] came to the United Kingdom after fleeing violence on a faked passport. [A] said that the picture on the passport was not her and the age of the person was 25. She was initially placed in a hostel and from there to a detention centre and then to a prison and returned to a hostel following an age assessment was carried out and assessed her to be the age of 17. [A] met Mohamed and Noura and the family on a chance meeting at a McDonalds in Hillingdon when Noura Mohamed was [sic] visiting friends in Hillingdon. From that meeting there were weekly visits of support from Noura and Mohamed to [A] when she was in the detention centre and prison and when she went to the hostel. They also made contact with Hillingdon Social Services and produced identification asking for [A] to visit them in Leicester because [A] was unhappy in Hillingdon. This was said to have been refused. [A] eventually left Hillingdon in August 23 [sic] to come to Leicester to live with the family. She said that she was frustrated after constantly asking and getting no joy for her request to reside with this family who were friends and was [sic] giving her support. [A] was in receipt of £93 per fortnight whilst in the hostel. Since arriving in Leicester this support has stopped and she was informed that as was not with the Hillingdon [sic] for 13 weeks that they had no duty to continue to support her.
[A] is in good physical health. She has learned English whilst in Hillingdon and attending an ESOL class whilst there. She has been affected by the death of her parents because of the hostilities in her country from where she has fled. She is estranged from the rest of her family. She has no desire to return to Somalia because of fear for her life. [A] is clearly attached to her family friends as they provide some stability in her life. She is in need of finance for personal effects and to be helped where possible to acquire her own accommodation in the light of the cramped conditions that she lives. There are no records of concern regarding the family of social services systems and from discussions and meetings some of the family members, no concerns are met.
I assess [A] to be a child in need and needs the basic support that a child of her age should receive. Noura and Mohamed have been assessed and in my opinion are already struggling to meet their own needs. They also do not have the physical room to support [A] so are not able to support her financially. They are, however, committed to [A] and will continue to provide accommodation and food."
"[A] said that she had not planned to stay with them when she first arrived and that they had not been expecting her to come. But now that they have met and they have helped her a lot she does not wish to move away from her placement with them."
I regard that recording and report and those facts as crucially important in this case, particularly when the London Borough of Hillingdon have based from the beginning their contentions upon the fact that the claimant voluntarily left Hillingdon's area and decided to go and live in Leicester. Reverting to the report, it is recorded:
"I explained to her that London Borough of Hillingdon can only support and look after her if she were to move back to London, because it would be very difficult to maintain regular contact and provide an appropriate service from such a distance. [A] made it clear she will not move to London.
The report indicates that she is sleeping on the settee in the lounge, which is a small room, and again, quoting directly from the report at page 55:
"The house is very cramped and there is hardly room to walk between the beds as the rooms are quite small. [A] said that Mrs Alaouri has applied for bigger accommodation."
"I said I would check this on my return to London but that she should also have a new check up with an optician in Leicester."
"Joel explained that his department had been supporting [A] financially because they feel there is a child in need while the matter regarding which LA takes on full responsibility is being sorted out though the legal departments of both authorities. He said that this support would be ending on 24 January. He further said Leicester Social Services would be prepared to refer her to the 16+ team who could then do the pathway plan on behalf of LBH. Joel feels there are exceptional reasons to allow [A] to remain placed with her present carers in view of a strong connection between them. He mentioned the fact that they have often visited and supported [A] whilst she was in detention in Harmondsworth and that they continued to provide her with food and shelter in their overcrowded accommodation. The meeting was cordial and I was reassured that Leicester is meeting [A's] short term needs appropriately while being very understanding of the legal matters that need to be dealt with between our two authorities."
Again, that final comment in my judgment is of significance, given the subsequent history of this matter.
"At that point [namely, 29 August 2007] the second defendant ceased to provide her with any support. The first defendant refused to accept that the claimant was its responsibility and refused to provide anything more than financial support pending the resolution of its dispute with the first defendant as to which was the responsible authority. Both defendants assessed the claimant's accommodation to be unsuitable and assessed her to have a range of other unmet needs. Yet both defendants refused to provide accommodation or support to address those needs because each considered the other to be responsible. The first defendant and/or the second defendants have acted irrationally and in breach of their duties under the Children Act 1989. The claimant seeks inter alia urgent interim relief compelling the first defendant to provide appropriate accommodation and support and a mandatory order compelling the first or second defendant to provide for the claimants' assessed needs."
"This is a disgraceful squabble between the two councils at the expense of a vulnerable young person. List for oral application at the end of next week [emphasis added] unless the defendants agree to grant the relief claimed -- a proper plan is obviously needed and compliance with the relevant statutory duty. They should agree that one or other (probably Leicester) undertake the necessary work and provide the claimant subject to Hillingdon (or the other way round) reimbursing in due course. In the meantime Leicester is to continue to provide financial support as hitherto which can if necessary be reimbursed in due course.
"By 12 September the authority was entitled to conclude that the claimant had chosen not to be accommodated by it but to live instead with her friends in Leicester and entitled to conclude that it was under a duty to provide her with accommodation under section 20."
"This case raises important issues as to the extent to which a local authority can unilaterally terminate its statutory duties to a looked-after child that it had previously been accommodating pursuant to section 20 of the Children Act 1989. The case raises issues of general importance not limited to the specific case. There are regular disputes between local authorities relating to children who have moved out of an area and therefore guidance on this issue would be of benefit to local authorities generally."
"Whilst Hillingdon recognises the undesirability of public authorities having to resort to the court to resolve disputes between them and regrets the fact that that has been necessary to do in the present case, the issues raised by this case have potential ramifications of Hillingdon beyond its own facts. Because Heathrow Airport is located in Hillingdon's area, from time to time it owes or may owe duties pursuant to the Children Act 1989 to a large number of unaccompanied asylum seeking children. Accordingly it is important for Hillingdon to be certain as to the nature and extent of its powers and duties in relation to such children in particular circumstances."
"It shall be the general duty of every local authority (in addition to the other duties imposed on them by this Part)—
(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."
By paragraph 17(10) it is said:
"For the purposes of this Part a child shall be taken to be in need if --
(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 under this Part;
(b) his health or development is likely to be significantly impaired, or further impaired, without the provision for him of such services"
I note that in this case there is no dispute between the local authorities that this child was a child in need at all material times.
"Every local authority shall provide accommodation for any child in need within their area who appears to them to require accommodation as a result of --
(a) there being no person who has parental responsibility for him;
(b) his being lost or having been abandoned; or
(c) the person who has been caring for him being prevented (whether or not permanently, and for whatever reason) from providing him with suitable accommodation or care."
Section 20(2) provides:
"Where a local authority provide accommodation under subsection (1) for a child who is ordinarily resident in the area of another local authority, that other local authority may take over the provision of accommodation for the child within --
(a) three months of being notified in writing that the child is being provided with accommodation; or
(b) such other longer period as may be prescribed."
Subsection (3) provides:
"Every local authority shall provide accommodation for any child in need within their area who has reached the age of sixteen and whose welfare the authority consider is likely to be seriously prejudiced if they do not provide him with accommodation."
Section 20(6) provides:
"Before providing accommodation under this section, a local authority shall, so far as is reasonably practicable and consistent with the child's welfare --
(a) ascertain the child's wishes and feelings regarding the provision of accommodation; and
(b) give due consideration (having regard to his age and understanding) to such wishes and feelings of the child as they have been able to ascertain."
Section 22 defines the general duty of the local authority in relation to looked after children and defines a looked after child in section 22(1). There is no dispute that the claimant at all material times was a looked after child. Section 22(4) and (5) provide:
"(4) Before making any decision with respect to a child whom they are looking after, or proposing to look after, a local authority shall, so far as is reasonably practicable, ascertain the wishes and feelings of --
(a) the child;
(b) his parents;
(c) any person who is not a parent of his but who has parental responsibility for him; and
(d) any other person whose wishes and feelings the authority consider to be relevant,
regarding the matter to be decided.
(5) In making any such decision a local authority shall give due consideration ---
(a) having regard to his age and understanding, to such wishes and feelings of the child as they have been able to ascertain;
(b) to such wishes and feelings of any person mentioned in subsection (4)(b) to (d) as they have been able to ascertain; and
(c) to the child's religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background."
By Section 23(1) it is provided:
"(1) It shall be the duty of any local authority looking after a child --
(a) when he is in their care, to provide accommodation for him; and
(b) to maintain him in other respects apart from providing accommodation for him."
Section 27 deals with co-operation between authorities. Section 27(1) provides:
"Where it appears to a local authority that any authority mentioned in subsection (3) could, by taking any specified action, help in the exercise of any of their functions under this Part, they may request the help of that other authority specifying the action in question. By subsection 3 it is provided that such authorities include any local authority."
Section 29 deals with the recoupment of costs of providing services and by Section 29(7) provides:
"Where a local authority provide any accommodation under section 20(1) for a child who was (immediately before they began to look after him) ordinarily resident within the area of another local authority, they may recover from that other authority any reasonable expenses incurred by them in providing the accommodation and maintaining him."
"By a majority, the House held that the "general duty" in section 17(1) of the 1989 Act was a "framework" duty owed to the local population and did not result in a mandatory duty to meet the assessed needs of every individual child regardless of resources. As Lord Hope pointed out, at para 83, that accords with the view of the Review of Child Care Law (Department of Health and Social Security, 1985), at para 5.8:
'We believe that the provisions should be stated clearly in general terms of making services available at an appropriate level to the needs of the area rather than in terms of duties owed to individual children or families, in order to leave local authorities a wide flexibility to decide what is appropriate in particular cases while providing for a reasonable overall level of provision. It is for local authorities to decide upon their priorities within the resources available to them.'"
"The section 20 duty is a subset of the general duty created by section 17 which provides for the provision of services for children in need, their families and others. Section 17(1) provides that it shall be the 'general duty' of every local authority '(a) to safeguard and promote the welfare of children within their area who are in need'. Subsection (2) provides that 'for the purpose principally of facilitating the discharge of their general duty under this section, every local authority shall have the specific duties and powers set out in Part 1 of Schedule 2.' Those specific duties include the duty to take reasonable steps to identify the extent to which there are children in need within their area (para 1(1)). Para 3 of Part 1 of Schedule 3 provides that '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 [specified other Acts]'. Section 17(4A) is, mutatis mutandis, in the same terms as section 20(6)."
"Once a child is 'looked after' by a local authority, a great many other duties arise. These include, crucially, the duty to safeguard and promote her welfare and to maintain her in other respects apart from providing accommodation for her: 1989 Act, sections 22(3) and 23(1)(b). It would not be consistent with those duties, for example, to place a young person in a bed and breakfast hotel or hostel accommodation without providing her with enough money for food and other essentials. Although the local authority do not have 'parental responsibility' for a child who is accommodated under section 20, they are nevertheless replacing to some extent the role played by a parent in the child's life, and are expected to look after the child in all the ways that a good parent would."
In the Southwark case at paragraphs 24 and 25 she said:
"On the other hand, the Act draws a distinction between the 'general duty' in section 17(1) and the specific duties laid down elsewhere in Part III, including section 20. As Lord Hope made clear in para 81, these duties do leave important matters to the judgment of the authority. But once those matters have been decided in a particular way, it must follow that a duty is owed to the individual child. Thus Lord Hope was able to conclude, in para 100, that there was no doubt that the authorities were under a duty to provide accommodation under section 20(1) for the children of the two claimants who did not qualify for accommodation under the 1996 Act. The concern for children's welfare which ran throughout Part III meant that the children should not suffer because their mother had come to this country or had become homeless intentionally. Thus these mothers were 'prevented' within the meaning of section 20(1)(c) even though it was their own choice. The issue in those cases was whether the duty in section 23(6) to place such children with their families included a duty to provide housing for families who had none. It was not difficult to conclude that it did not.
25. In my view, therefore, the Barnet case is, if anything, helpful to A, in highlighting the primacy of the specific duty owed to individuals in section 20 over the general duty owed to children in need and their families and its associated powers in section 17, just as the Hammersmith and Fulham case is helpful to A in highlighting the primacy of the Children Act over the Housing Act in providing for children in need."
"(1) The meaning of the words 'within their area' in the Children Act 1989 section 17 was that physical presence was required
(3) The test of physical presence may, as in the present case, involve more than one authority being subject to a duty but this was not an objection to the test. This was a case for co-operation under the Children Act 1989 Section 27 and a sharing of the burden between authorities."
"Requiring physical presence is a clearer test than a purposive approach under which the nature and duration of the presence, or the responsibilities of the different authorities in the frame are taken into account. While physical presence may, as in the present case, involve more than one authority being subject to the duty, I do not consider that an objection. There are, for example, children who are accommodated for part of the week with one parent and partly with the other parent who lives in a different local authority. As Mr Knafler submitted in reply, the absence of a dispute resolution procedure such as that in section 30 in respect of the 'ordinary residence' of a child supports the view that a section 17 duty may lie on more than one authority. In a case where more than one authority is under a duty to assess the needs of a child, there is clearly no reason for more than one authority to in fact assess a child's needs and there is a manifest case for co-operation under section 27 of the Children Act and a sharing of the burden by the authorities."
In this case it is perhaps pertinent to remark that it is a matter for regret that those injunctions were not in the forefront of the minds of both of the local authorities involved.
"But the position in relation to subsection (6) is different. It does not provide that the child's wishes and feelings are determinative. In view of the emphasis of the CA on a child's welfare (replicated in subsection (6) itself), this is hardly surprising. Children are often not good judges of what is in their best interests. Subsection (6) is carefully drafted. The local authority is required "so far as is reasonably practicable and consistent with the child's welfare" to ascertain the child's wishes and feelings regarding the provision of accommodation and "give due consideration (having regard to his age and understanding) to such wishes and feelings… as they have been able to ascertain" (emphasis added). The child's wishes are to be given "due" consideration in the assessment process, no more and no less."
"What consideration (having regard to his age and understanding) is duly to be given to those wishes and feelings? As Dyson LJ pointed out in R (Liverpool City Council) v Hillingdon London Borough Council  EWCA Civ 43, para 32, 'children are often not good judges of what is in their best interests'. But that too should not be an issue here. A had been given legal advice as to which legal route to accommodation would be in his best interests. He needed help to get back into education and get his life on track towards responsible adult independence and away from whatever influence the gang culture was exerting over him. That would be better provided for him if he were accommodated under section 20 and became an 'eligible' child."
"It is my understanding from what all three counsel have been able to tell me of this case that although no doubt all local authorities have attempted to cooperate where possible, no formal guidelines or structured arrangement has been adopted to assist them in cases involving section 17 where more than one authority may be involved. Such cooperation is plainly important. It is important to avoid any impression that local authorities are able to pass responsibility for the child on to another authority. I say straightaway that I do not suggest there has been any such motive in the present case but the local authorities are naturally concerned in areas where resources are short to avoid carrying out duties…of other authorities. It is vital particularly in cases involving children that the needs of the children are given consideration and that as far as possible arguments about who considers and meets those needs do not hold up the provision of services to those children. To put it shortly the needs need to be met first and the redistribution of resources should, if necessary take place afterwards. It is also important, quite plainly, that the parents of children should not be able to cause inconvenience or extra expense by simply moving on to another local authority, although I do not suggest that it is what happened in the present case."
Baroness Hale in the Southwark case at paragraph 28(3) deals in passing with this issue. She says:
"Is he within the local authority's area? This again is not contentious. But it may be worth remembering that it was an important innovation in the forerunner provision in the Children Act 1948. Local authorities have to look after the children in their area irrespective of where they are habitually resident. They may then pass a child on to the area where he is ordinarily resident under section 20(2) or recoup the cost of providing for him under section 29(7). But there should be no more passing the child from pillar to post while the authorities argue about where he comes from."
"Any judge who sits in the family division will be familiar with the depressing inadequacies and deficiencies in too many of the care plans presented to the court for its approval. A care plan is more than a statement of strategic objectives -- though all too often even these are expressed in the most vacuous terms. A care plan is -- or ought to be -- a detailed operational plan. Just how detailed will depend on the circumstances of the particular case. Sometimes some very high level of detail will be essential, but, whatever the level of detail which the individual cause may call for, any care plan worth its name ought to set out the operational objectives with sufficient detail -- including a detail of the "how, who, what and when" -- to enable to the care plan itself to be used as a means of checking whether or not those objectives are being met. Nothing less is called for in a pathway plan. Indeed, the regulations, as we have seen, (inaudible) a high level of detail."
"On the other hand, the whole tenor of the framework document and on the other guidance that I have summarised about this, 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 the registration it should be achieved at the 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 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, protection of a care plan and provision of the identified services. It seems to me that where an authority follows a path which does not involve the preparation of the 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,"
"Nor do I consider that the January 2001 assessment was adequate in terms of the guidance. True, it did at least adopt a more structured approach than anything previously done, examining the position in terms of the assessment framework, but it was essentially a descriptive document rather than an assessment, and in any event sufficient detail was still lacking, both as regards to the assessment itself and regards to the Care Plan and service provision. There was no clear identification of needs or what was to be done about them, by whom and by when."
"In response to paragraph 7 of Leicester's grounds, in undertaking an age assessment we were in fact undertaking an initial assessment of needs in keeping with the requirements of the Children Act. The age assessment we do is a comprehensive in-depth assessment that covers all of the areas of need. The age assessment is attached at DH1, paragraph 6. In response to paragraph 7 of Leicester's grounds, the outcome of this age assessment was to accept KA as a looked after child into the Care of Hillingdon Social Services. No further assessment was needed to reach this outcome."
"33. There may be cases where the child's wishes are decisive. But in my view a local authority should reach the conclusion that the child's wishes are decisive only as part of its overall judgment including an assessment of the child's welfare needs and the type and location of accommodation that will meet those needs. That is what, in effect, Arden LJ was saying in the Sutton case. It is also clear that this is what Ward LJ was contemplating in the Croydon case. He said that the section 20 decision involves a judgment being made about a range of facts and matters such as the nine that he listed, which included the subsection (6) questions.
34. Where the child is mature, articulate and intelligent and has strong and reasoned views as to why he or she wants to have a certain type of accommodation in a certain place, it may be that the local authority will be able swiftly and easily to form the view that it ought to accommodate the child in accordance with his or her wishes. I believe that this is what Baroness Hale (in the Hammersmith and Fulham case) and Bennett J (in the Lambeth and Croydon case) had in mind. But an assessment of needs will always be required. Otherwise, the authority will not be able to give due consideration to the question whether it is consistent with the child's welfare needs to accede to his or her wishes. I do not believe that Baroness Hale or Bennett J were contemplating a short-cut which would obviate the need for that consideration."
"35. I can now return to the facts of the present case. LBH did not give any consideration to AK's welfare needs. They did not make any assessment of his needs. It follows that they did not make any assessment of what kind of accommodation would meet those needs. They did not take account of his age, because they did not know what it was. They did not make any assessment of his understanding. They did not make enquiry of what accommodation would be available in Liverpool and whether it would be suitable for his needs. They did not apply the nuanced approach to the wishes and feelings of a child which is mandated by section 20(6). They took the simplistic view that the fact that AK said that he wanted to live in Liverpool was determinative of the matter. This was not a proper discharge of the section 20 duty."
MR ANDERSON: My Lord, could I ask on that point, all three counsel asked if we could have a direction seeking an expedited transcript.
HHJ FARMER: Yes, I direct that there be an expedited transcript.
MR ANDERSON: Sorry, my Lord, they further asked if they could have 14 days from that transcript being available in which to consider…
HHJ FARMER: Yes, to consider their position and to consider any submissions which they wish to make about permission to appeal. In the usual way, when the transcript is obtained counsel will peruse it and will submit it to me for further consideration to identify any obvious factual errors or to deal with matters which counsel wish me to deal with and which I may not have dealt with expressly. That is in accordance with the usual practice in both this and other courts. Now, what else do you want?
MR ANDERSON: My Lord, that is all I have been asked to…
HHJ FARMER: What do you … Yes, all right. Nothing else?
MR ANDERSON: … seek on behalf of each of the …
HHJ FARMER: What?
MR ANDERSON: That is all that I have been asked to request.
HHJ FARMER: Yes. So, in what capacity are you here today? Amicus? Joint … What about your conflict of interest, etc etc? Have you cleared it with bar counsel? Right, well I am very glad you were here today and thank you very much for attending. There is nothing else I can help you with at this stage, is there?
MR ANDERSON: No, my Lord.
HHJ FARMER: All right. So, putting it in robust terms, basically what needs to happen is the transcript needs to be obtained. It is unlikely we are going to be able to work within the August timetable, so we look to September and your chambers and the local authorities involved can liaise with Mrs Gwen Spear from the Rhyl County Court in relation to any dates which may be unsuitable for me. All right?
MR ANDERSON: Thank you very much.
HHJ FARMER: Thank you very much.