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/ 18 Aug 2023

Addressing Care System Pressures: Safeguarding Vulnerable Children in Child Care Law

In recent times, the care system has faced increasing scrutiny for its ability to adequately protect vulnerable children. You might have caught the eye-opening documentaries, such as Channel 4’s ‘KIDS’ which follows children who had been placed in care and are now living independently and/or returning home to their parents. Alternatively, the BBC’s ‘Teens in Care’ with Joe Swash shed light on the challenges within the system. As childcare solicitors, we understand the concerns and the pressing need for reform.

Tash Fairweather a Solicitor in our Child Care Law department provides further insights into the Care system below drawing on her professional experiences.



Child Care Law

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Rising numbers of children entering Care

Alarming statistics reveal a surge in children entering care due to various forms of harm or risk from their caregivers. While this emphasises the necessity of swift intervention, it also highlights the mounting pressure on local authorities to find suitable placements for these children who can no longer remain at home.

The path to care: Legal processes and placements

Understanding how children are placed into care is essential. A parent’s signature on a section 20 agreement, or a court order mandating removal, places the responsibility of the child on local authorities to secure safe and appropriate accommodations. These placements range from foster homes to group settings, and secure units. Sometimes situations occur whereby the Local Authority are permitted to deprive the children of young person of certain liberties. This can include restricted use of social media and/or their mobile phone. In these circumstances the child/young person may require extensive supervision and restrictions on their movement.

Strain on the system: placement challenges

The influx of children into the care system has created a critical situation.  Local authorities are facing limited resources and a higher demand for placements.  The Government acknowledges that there is a crisis in the care system. In fact, this has been acknowledged for several years but little appears to have been achieved in appropriately addressing the issues. Inadequate resources and/or funds available to the local authority mean that children could be moved from several placements until they are appropriately accommodated. These children are already vulnerable and desperately need to be given the opportunity to settle into a safe and supported space, without further turmoil in their lives.

We see children as young as 16 forced to live in semi – independent accommodation, due to a lack of foster families available. It also means that children who require placement within secure accommodation are placed miles away from their families, often in remote areas and even as far as Scotland, due to a lack of available placements in London and the surrounding areas.

Support for young adults leaving care

The struggle doesn’t end when childhood does. The lack of support available to young vulnerable adults who leave the care system casts them into an uncertain and isolated world.  If you have watched the above-mentioned documentaries, you would have seen that once a child leaves care, there is limited or perhaps no support available to them which creates a stressful and lonely place for our young vulnerable adults.

Urgent call for reform

We join the chorus of urgent appeals for government intervention. Addressing the failings in the care system, such as limited placements, resource shortages, and inadequate support, is crucial to prevent further harm to our vulnerable children and young adults.

How our childcare law solicitors can help you

If you’re facing the possibility of your child being removed from your care, or if you feel this article relates to you and your family circumstances, reach out to us. We specialise in childcare law and can provide personalised advice to navigate your family’s unique circumstances. Your child’s welfare is paramount, and we are here to guide you through these challenging times.

Early intervention: when to engage solicitors

It is important to engage solicitors as soon as possible and usually when the local authority issue a letter before proceedings, or a letter outlining their intention to issue proceedings in relation to the child/ren. It is vital to engage solicitors as early in the process as possible so that tailored advice can be provided from the onset.

Who we can represent

At Hanne & Co we have a specialist childcare team who represent parents, Guardians, grandparents, extended family members and children who have separated from their Guardians throughout all areas of care proceedings. We also represent parents who wish to have contact with their child(ren) in care, and on Discharge of Care Order applications.

If you have received a letter before proceedings, or a letter outlining the local authority’s intention to issue care proceedings in relation to you child(ren), or if you would like advice on how to issue an application for contact with a child in care, or to discharge a care order, please do not hesitate to contact our childcare specialist team.

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