The Practical Lawyer


Children – care plans

What is the court’s approach where there is an impasse with the LA regarding an important element in a care plan? In this case, the CA found that the trial judge’s invitation to the LA to reconsider its plan was a ‘textbook’ example in keeping with the authorities.

This was an appeal in care proceedings involving three children. At issue was the welfare determination of a five-year-old boy against the background of a dispute around the professional evidence as to his care plan. The LA wanted him placed in long-term foster care with his older sibling while the guardian argued for adoption with his younger sibling.

The trial judge concluded that the social worker’s assessment of attachment was superficial and fatally flawed, much preferring the evidence of the independent social worker and the guardian – in fact, the LA accepted that he was right to criticise the social worker. He therefore extended the interim care order for a short period to enable the LA to reconsider its care plan. At a hearing a month later (‘the December hearing’), the LA was granted permission to appeal.

The President of the Family Division considered the legal framework and authorities in detail, and followed the approach in Re: T (2018): when ‘the focus is upon the care plan after the proceedings are concluded, there is a need for mutual respect and engagement between the court and a local authority’.

He concluded that the judge’s decision and his order were entirely in keeping with the authorities, and the December hearing was conducted in error. Furthermore, it was premature for the judge to hold that there was an impasse between the court and the LA before undertaking a further evaluation process in the circumstances.

The CA allowed the appeal, though notably it did not fully agree with any of the LA’s actual grounds of appeal. The case was remitted to a different judge to determine what, if any, orders should be made. Re T-S (children) (care orders: welfare determination) [2019] EWCA Civ 742; Re T [2018] EWCA Civ 650. Source:


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