S (Child in care: Unregistered Placement) [2020] EWHC 1012 (Fam)

Judgment of Cobb J concerning unregistered placements and the chronic issue of absence of satisfactory secure provision.

This matter concerns Samantha (a name chosen by her for the judgment), an extremely vulnerable 15 year old young person. Samantha had difficult upbringing, and experienced a chaotic childhood with little security or stability. She has seriously self harmed in many ways, including swallowing razors and glass. In May 2019 the local authority sought an interim care order, and a secure accommodation order. Samantha was in a secure accommodation unit for a period of time, however this unit gave notice on her placement as it was unable to manage her care. Upon her return to the East Riding of Yorkshire orders were made by HHJ Heaton QC (sitting s.9) authorising a deprivation of her liberty. From that date on Samantha was placed in several different placements and placement types. 

At the time of this hearing Samantha remained the subject of an interim care order and was living as the only young person in a holiday cottage in rural North Yorkshire, which has been rented out solely for accommodating her. Samantha is cared for by up to three adult members of staff employed by an independent care agency. The placement is unregistered, and therefore unregulated by Ofsted. In addition to the interim care order, there is in place an order authorising the local authority to deprive her of her liberty in material respects within her placement. Samantha craves an ordinary life. 

Cobb J highlights in thIs judgment the currently very limited capacity in the children’s social care system for young people with complex needs who need secure care. Redacted documents in this case were sent to the Children’s Commissioner, who in turn indicated that this is illustrative of similar cases up and down the country, and that she would like the issue raised directly with the Secretary of State for Education. The Children’s Commissioner’s response is also set out in full within the judgment at para 28.

Read the full judgement: S (Child in care: Unregistered Placement) [2020] EWHC 1012 (Fam)

Related reading – keep on caring to 18 campaign

More here:

Children’s Commissioner Responding to the DfE’s announcement on children in care living in unregulated accommodation

Looked after children: out of area, unregulated and unregistered accommodation (England)

Unregistered and unregulated provision – what’s the difference?

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