“Most appropriate placements” for looked after children: The High Court waters down the duty

January 29th, 2016 by Hannah Slarks

Sometimes judges will do things that nobody asked them to do.  So it was in R (Nationwide Association of Fostering Providers) v Bristol CC, Leeds CC, Suffolk CC [2015] EWHC 3615 (Admin).  Without any encouragement from the parties before him, William Davis J has seriously watered down the duty on councils to find the “most appropriate placement” for looked after children.

The Claimant’s case

The Nationwide Association of Fostering Providers (NAFP) challenged the way in which councils select foster carers for children.  Many councils consider in-house foster parents first.  Only if they cannot find a suitable in-house foster parent do they consider independent foster parents.  NAFP argued that that this approach unlawful.  Section 22C(5) Children’s Act 1989 requires that a local authority must place the child in the placement which is “in their opinion, the most appropriate placement available”.   NAFP argued that this requires councils to design their processes to identify the most appropriate placement available among all the possible options.  Therefore, councils could not lawfully give priority to in-house options.

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