Does section 20 of the Children Act require the consent of parents? The Supreme Court is to decide.

June 6, 2017

On 26 January 2017, the Court of Appeal handed down its decision in London Borough of Hackney v Williams and anor [2017] EWCA Civ 26, departing from a long chain of Family Court judgments highlighting the necessity for local authorities to obtain the informed consent of parents prior to accommodating children under section 20. In a landmark judgment, the Court of Appeal held that although obtaining parental consent was good practice, and that the guidance of the High Court should be followed, the necessity for consent did not have the full force of law and could not found an action in damages under the Human Rights Act. You can read our analysis of the Court of Appeal’s decision here

Permission to appeal was sought by the parents, arguing that this is a case of considerable public importance. The divergence of opinion at High Court and Court of Appeal level has created a lack of clarity as to the status of the earlier established guidance of the Family Court, and is likely to have significant implications for social work practice and the protection of vulnerable children.

The Association of Lawyers for Children and the Coram Children’s Legal Centre both also made written submissions in support of the application for permission to appeal.

Permission to appeal has now been granted and the issues will be considered by the Supreme Court, on a date to be determined.

The parents continue to be represented by Christine Cooper and Eirwen Pierrot, of Field Court Chambers’ public law team.

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