In the matter of BT & GT (Children : twins – adoption)  EWFC 76 (29 November 2018), Mr Justice Keehan has awarded costs against a local authority for the “serious and serial basis” of failures towards two children.
Keehan said the IROs in this matter had ‘failed to take any steps to oversee and/or challenge the local authority’s decisions’ – decisions that had led to the admitted breaches of two girls human rights along with those of their prospective adopters.
Mr Justice Keehan said:
The failings of this local authority have been utterly appalling. Whilst I accept the assurances of the director of children’s services and of the assistant director that significant and substantial reforms will be made and effected, no child should ever again be cared for in the manner BT and GT have had to endure at the hands of this local authority nor suffer the woeful lack of rational care planning. Further no prospective adopter should ever again have to endure the treatment meted out to A, B and C in this case.
The breaches of human rights are summarised in the judgement (at point 47) as:
i) a failure to undertake a thorough analysis of the need to change the care plans for the children and a failure to consider appropriately the consequences of separating the twins;
ii) a failure to disclose in full detail the needs of, the challenging behaviours of and the past life experiences of BT or GT to their prospective adopters;
iii) a member of the social work team deleting references to the children’s challenging violent behaviours from the Child Permanence Reports (‘CPR’) and the Adoption Support Plans;
iv) the wholly unmeritorious decision and issuing of a s.35(2) notice to remove BT from his placement with A and B;
v) the undue stresses and strains caused to the prospective adopters by:
a) the local authority’s flawed decisions; and
b) as a result, these prolonged court proceedings which have had an adverse impact on BT and GT’s experience of family life;
vi) the failure to consider properly the alternative plan for placing BT or GT in long term foster placements and to adhere to the court approved care plans;
vii) the failure to hold adoption reviews rather than LAC reviews (adoption reviews have an entirely different mandatory criteria to consider than LAC reviews: see Adoption Agencies Regulations 2005, regulation 36); and
viii) the failure of the Independent Reviewing Officer system to take any steps to secure any cogent care planning for the children and/or to protect them from the consequences of flawed and/or ill-considered decisions.
The schedule of supplemental failings set out in Annexe 2 attached to the judgement are summarised as:
i) a failure in the original care plans to set out what the local authority would do if a placement together could not be found after 12 months;
ii) a lack of management oversight;
iii) a failure to follow the court approved care plan to a correct conclusion;
iv) a failure in the decision-making process to place the twins separately for adoption;
v) the failure to acknowledge the significance of maintaining the legal sibling relationship of the twins;
vi) the failure to acknowledge the legal relationship between BT and GT and their older siblings;
vii) the failure to record the reasons why a manager made the decision to place the twins separately for adoption on 10th April 2016;
viii) the failure of the LAC review on 11th April 2016 to consider pursuing a plan of long term foster care or commissioning further expert report(s) on the issue of placing the twins separately;
ix) the failure to promote contact between the twins once they had been placed for adoption;
x) the failure in applying full and accurate information in the CPRs and Adoption Support Plans including the adoption team manager wrongly and inappropriately deleting information about the twins challenging behaviours;
xi) the failures of the IROs to take any steps to oversee and/or challenge the local authority’s decisions;
xii) the failure of the ADM decision making process, namely to fail to consider the impact on the children throughout the whole of their lives of separating them; and
xiii) the failure of the local authority, as a result of poor record keeping, to provide accurate evidence to the court.
Salutary reading. Download at source – BAILII: BT & GT (Children : twins – adoption)  EWFC 76 (29 November 2018)
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NIROMP continues to provide support and professional development of IROs and IRO services – identifying common training needs and supporting how these can best be met. Membership for IROs is free and our conferences and events are provided at minimal or no cost. We can also assist with peer review, mentoring and support.
Local Government Association
Permanency resource pack
The LGA have developed a resource pack to help councillors understand what permanency is, the factors that can have an impact and the questions that will help councillors to understand what’s working well and what could be improved:
Every councillor is a corporate parent to the children in the council’s care, so should be playing their part in making sure we get the very best for each child. This resource pack
is designed to help councillors understand what permanency is, the factors that can have an impact and the questions that will help to understand what’s working well and what could be improved.
(Councillor Anntoinette Bramble, Chair, LGA Children and Young People Board)
The LGA resource pace for councillors can be downloaded here: Permanency resource pack