Call to Action – Knowledge Inquiry: Children who come into the care system under a voluntary arrangement

Your Family, Your Voice, is an alliance of families and practitioners that has been developed by Family Rights Group to counter the stigma and negative presumptions about families whose children are subject to, or at risk of, state intervention. The Alliance is leading a Knowledge Inquiry to look in detail at one part of our child welfare system – the powers and duties which exist under section 20 of the Children Act 1989. The inquiry was launched on 8th December 2016 at a national meeting of Your Family, Your Voice held in London.

As at 31 March 2016 nearly 19,000 of the 70,440 children that were in the care system were looked after under a section 20 voluntary arrangement. There are now record numbers of care proceedings and recent cases before the family courts have highlighted significant gaps in good practice where the powers in section 20 Children Act 1989 are used to place children and young people in care without going to court.

There is however no clear picture of how section 20 powers and duties are being used. There is no focussed government guidance indicating how practitioners and local authorities should or can use section 20 powers as part of a wider goal of delivering a good service to children, young people and families.

Against this background the Inquiry aims to find out the following:

  • What was the original purpose and intention behind section 20 Children Act 1989?
  • Is that original purpose and intent still valid and relevant today?
  • How is section 20 presently being used in England & Wales?
  • What needs to change and what are the priorities?

Please contribute to this important Knowledge Inquiry and circulate this flier onto your networks and individuals that you think the Inquiry may be of interest to. The flier links to the Inquiry webpage which has further relevant information and hosts the questionnaires.

In addition to the online questionnaires, the Inquiry will also include:

  • A series of focus groups with a range of interested individuals including IROs and IRO managers, social work practitioners, parents (including those with learning difficulties/disabilities) and wider family members;
  • A legal roundtable with solicitors, barristers and legal academics; and
  • A one day challenge event which will bring together family members, practitioners and managers, policy makers and academics to discuss the information and ideas that have come from the consultation process and to help us develop the Inquiry’s main conclusions and recommendations.

Information about how you can get involved in one of the focus groups will be circulated as soon as dates and venues are known.

A final Inquiry report will be published in spring 2017 and will include a review of key policy, legal and research material; analysis of the evidence gathered from the questionnaires, focus groups and the challenge event; and the Inquiry’s final findings and recommendations.

Contribute to the Knowledge Inquiry

Please read the briefing note about section 20 voluntary arrangements and the Inquiry before filling in a questionnaire.

Questionnaire for IROs & social care practitioners and managers

Questionnaire for children and young people

Questionnaire for parents

Questionnaire for kinship carers (also known as family and friends carers) who are raising children who are unable to safely live with their parents

Questionnaire for foster carers

Questionnaire for lawyers

Questionnaire for voluntary organisations, policy makers and academics

For further information or to express an interest in the Inquiry or specific activities please contact Caroline Lynch, Principal Legal Adviser at Family Rights Group at

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