Government acted lawfully when they placed children aged 16 and 17 in care-less accommodation, says High Court
The High Court of Justice has found that the government acted lawfully when it banned care-less accommodation for children aged 15 and under without extending protections to 16- and 17-year-olds. The ruling was made in the Article39 v Secretary of State case yesterday by Judge Holgate.
Article39 brought the challenge in early February through Judicial Review, on three grounds:
- That the government acted irrationally last year when they issued an outright ban on care-less accommodation for children aged 15 and under, despite over 6000 children aged 16 and 17 continuing to live in unsuitable accommodation.
- That the Secretary of State had failed to comply with its Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED), and this had contributed to discrimination based on age and indirect discrimination based on gender and ethnicity.
- That the consultation run by the Secretary of State compromised the principle of fairness, because it gave disproportionate weight to the views of some stakeholders and did not ask any specific question about extending protections to 18-year-olds.
Judge Holgate stated that the Court could not rule in favour of Article39’s grounds because “the Secretary of State considers that unregulated accommodation should never be treated as suitable for children under 16, whereas such placements are suitable for some 16- or 17-year-olds moving towards independence, subject to individual assessment of their needs.”
He further stated that the Secretary of State has decided to introduce a registration and inspection regime based on new national standards and (to remind local authorities that the use of unregulated accommodation is subject to their statutory obligations to place a child in the placement which is the most appropriate placement available and suitable to meet the needs of that child.”
Last week, a report published by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) highlighted that private sector providers of unregulated children’s homes are making higher profits that ‘the CMA would expect in a well-functioning market.’ Consequently, local authorities are paying more for low quality ‘care’ services than they need to.
Consequently, we consider the new standards to be insufficient. Our evidence to the court, which included personal testimonies from care experienced people themselves, shows that many children continue to live in care less accommodation not because it is in line with their best interests, but because it is the only placement available to the local authority at the time.
Article39 is now exploring their grounds to appeal the judgement.
Since last year, the Together Trust has been campaigning alongside Article39 and the KeepCaringto18 campaigning group and attended both the petition hand in to 10 Downing Street and the High Court of Justice earlier this year.
Lucy Croxton, Policy, Public Affairs and Campaigns Manager said:
“We are incredibly disappointed that the court has ruled in the way that it did – and know that the impact of the judgement will be felt hardest by the 6500 children still living in care-less accommodation and the care experienced community, many of whom have campaigned tirelessly on this issue. We will continue to fight for their rights”
Lucy Croxton, Policy, Public Affairs and Campaigns Manager, Together Trust
About the #KeepCaringTo18Campaign
The campaign is run by a steering group of organisations as well as several individuals with many decades of experience in children’s social care. The group is led by:
· Ali Gunn, Lucy Croxton
· Carolyne Willow, Article 39
· David Graham, The Care Leavers’ Association
· Eloïse Di Gianni, Just for Kids Law
· Jacki Rothwell, retired social worker and children’s rights campaigner
· Joy Bradley, independent consultant (children’s residential care)
· Dr Lynn Brady, independent advocate and independent person for Children Act complaints
· Mohamed Mohamed, care leaver and supported accommodation worker
· Pat Leeson, National Association of Independent Reviewing Officers
· Sam Turner, Become
· Terry Galloway, Norman Galloway Homes
More information about the campaign can be found here: https://article39.org.uk/keepcaringforchildrenupto18/