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02.04.2020

Domestic Abuse & Injunctions

Written by Rosita Mendonca

Home Minister Priti Patel recently commented that “Domestic abuse victims are allowed to leave home to seek help at refuges despite rules to stop coronavirus spreading. “

If you or someone you know has been affected by domestic abuse, several organisations can help, including National Centre For Domestic Violence, Women’s Aid, & Refuge. National Legal Service Solicitors are available to assist with the legal aspect of the case.

An injunction is a court order which prohibits contact between individuals and can involve removing someone from a home or apartment. The most common form of injunctions includes Non-Molestation Orders & Occupation Orders.

Non-Molestation Orders:

A non-molestation order prevents an abuser from using or threatening violence or making threats, sending abusive messages, or making repeated phone calls.

It is important to note that a non-molestation order can only be obtained by an ‘associated’ person including spouses, partners or those deemed to be in in a ‘significant’ relationship

Occupation orders:

In the event you feel unsafe and do not wish to continue living with your partner, it is advised to also secure an occupation order. An occupation order legalises who can live in the family home and can restrict a person from entering a certain area.

For more detailed information, read our blog on the injunctions process.

The above is a very brief outline of the type of injunctions and terms that you could apply for. Full details and options will be set out by one of our specialist family lawyers.

Head of Family, Kirsty Richards comments

The current Covid-19 pandemic is having a devastating impact all across the world and is causing a lot of anxiety for many. It is extremely concerning to think that amidst this already difficult time, the risk of domestic abuse will increase, and for that reason we have moved incredibly fast to ensure all our teams are able to work remotely and continue to secure whatever series of protective orders are required for our clients.

It is welcome guidance that it has been made clear for any victim of abuse that they are able to leave a family home to seek urgent refuge if required. We at National Legal Service Solicitors are ready to deal with any increase in referrals and will continue to deliver sensitive and high quality client care through such unprecedented times.

Domestic Abuse and injunction solicitors

With National Legal Service Solicitors you will have access to Family & Children Law accredited specialists across our network of 19 branch offices.

If you or your children have experienced domestic abuse, we can talk to you about your options and apply for an injunction.

We have helped more than 2,500 victims of domestic abuse across the country get the legal protection they need.

To speak with our team of family and divorce solicitors call us on 020 3601 5051 or fill in our enquiry form online.

 

29.03.2020

Child Arrangement Orders & Covid-19 : What the lock down means for separated parents

Written by Nadia Butt

We are facing truly unprecedented times; a time in which the entire country is in the middle of a Public Health crisis on an unprecedented scale.  Many parents have questioned the arrangements for the children to spend time with the other parent, where this has been determined by the court through a Child Arrangements Order.

Understandably, the parent with whom the child lives will be concerned about their ability to meet the requirements of the order, given the wholly unforeseen changes in the governments’ advice on a daily basis.

It is incredibly difficult in good times to come to an agreement regarding child arrangements, however, this can be significantly more challenging when the government advises voluntary quarantine practices. Below is an update in relation to the current coronavirus situation and it’s implication on child arrangement orders.

The current government guidance is that anyone who presents with a high temperature and/or a new continuous cough should stay at home for a period of at least 7 days. It is recommended that if people live with others they should stay at home for a period of at least 14 days from the first day the person displayed symptoms. It is further recommended that people who are over 70 years old or who fall into the high-risk category (those with underlying health conditions, are pregnant or have a weakened immune system) should avoid all social contact with others.

On 24th March 2020, Sir Andrew McFarlane president of the Family Division and Head of Family Justice, has provided guidance in line with the current pandemic to ensure the concerns of parents are alleviated as follows;

  1. When the Court makes an order in Family Proceedings, the expectation is for each parent to exercise their parental responsibility in the best interest of the children. Parental responsibility does not rest with the court.
  2. Each parent must act sensibly and safely when making decisions regarding the arrangements for their child and deciding where and with whom their child spends time.
  3. Each parent must abide by the government rule and restrictions issued on 23rd March 2020 to “stay at home”, unless shopping, going for one form of exercise a day, caring for a vulnerable person or medical need, or travelling to work where absolutely necessary; such restrictions apply to children too.

There is an exception relating to children subject to Child Arrangements Order, in that, children under 18 can move between households, “but the decision whether a child is to move between parental homes is for the child’s parents to make, after a sensible assessment of the circumstances, including the child’s present health, the risk of infection and the presence of any recognised vulnerable individuals in one household or the other”.

It is paramount that parents do not become critical of each other, when the resident parent considers the child’s safety and health may be compromised by allowing contact. A parent who has exercised their parental responsibility, and acted in line with government advice by not allowing contact, is able to vary the existing Contact Arrangements Order, and will not be criticised by the court or reprimanded.

It would be a reasonable expectation for the parent to inform the non-resident parent, in advance, whether by way of telephone, text or email, that contact will not be going ahead, and agree an alternative form of contact by way of FaceTime/ Skype or telephone so that the child maintains continuity of having established and maintained contact with the other parent.

Child Arrangement Order Solicitors

We must all work together and stay safe during this crisis and foster greater unity in what will no doubt be a challenging period for parents and children.

If you  are having challenges in co-parenting during this time, please contact our team of family and divorce solicitors who are experienced in resolving child arrangement disputes or call on 020 3601 5051.

06.03.2020

Getting an injunction if you’ve been a victim of domestic abuse

Written by Raman Dhillon

Domestic abuse can take many forms. Frequent examples that we come across include verbal abuse, physical abuse, psychological abuse and sexual abuse although this is not an exhaustive list.

Types of Injunction

 Both non-molestation orders and occupation orders are types of injunctions which can offer you protection from your abuser. They are Court Orders that prohibit someone from doing something that is causing you harm

Part IV of the Family Law Act 1996 defines the two main types of injunctions:

  • A Non-Molestation Order can be used to prevent your partner, former partner or an associated person from being violent towards you or any children. It prevents this person from using threatening behaviour towards you. It also prevents intimidation, harassment and pestering (including in-person or remotely by letter, email, phone or social media) to ensure both your own and your children’s safety.

 

  • An Occupation Order can be used when the future occupation of a property is in dispute. This Order defines who can live in the family home and can extend to preventing your abuser from being in the surrounding area. One person could effectively be required to leave the home because of their violent behaviour towards you or the effect that their presence is having on your children.

 

Breaching a Non-Molestation Order or Occupation Order is a criminal offence and a power of arrest is automatically attached to these types of Injunction. A copy of the Injunction, once granted and served on the respondent, is lodged with the Police so they can act on any breaches. If you have an injunction in place the Police will take action regardless of whether your abuser (the respondent) has committed any other criminal offences.

Who can apply for an injunction?

You must be classed as an ‘associated person’ to apply for an injunction under the FLA 1996. This means that you and your abuser must be associated with each other in one of the following ways:

  • •You are/were married.
  • •You are/ were in a civil partnership.
  • •You are/were cohabitants.
  • •You live/lived in the same household.
  • •You are relatives.
  • •You formally agreed to marry each other (even if this is no longer the case).
  • •You have a child together.
  • •You had an ‘intimate relationship of significant duration’.

If you are applying for an occupation order, you must either have a legal right to occupy the home in question (as a joint or sole tenant or owner), or you have to be or have been, married to or living with a partner who is the owner or tenant of the property.

Obtaining an injunction

To obtain a Non-Molestation Order against your abuser, you must make an application to Court supported by a witness statement detailing the allegations of domestic abuse. Once your application is issued you will be referred to as the ’Applicant’ and the abuser will be referred to as the ‘Respondent’. You can either apply for the orders without notice to the respondent or on notice to the respondent.

If you are applying on notice to the respondent, that means the Respondent will be notified of your application and a Court hearing will be set which you will both be invited to attend. When applying for the Injunction it can be made clear if you require special measures, such as separate waiting areas or screens during the hearing if you do not want to be in contact with the Respondent whilst at Court.

During the first hearing of an on notice application, the Respondent will be asked whether he agrees or contests (disputes) the application and orders sought. If they admit the allegations against them (or fail to attend) then provided the court is satisfied the respondent has indeed had notice of the hearing date and time, the appropriate Injunction Order is usually made and the order is typically granted for six or 12 months – but this can be longer in some cases. Once expired, an application can be made to renew the Order if necessary.

If the Respondent denies the allegations or is not willing to leave the property, the case proceeds to a contested final hearing which is when the Judge will decide whether to make the Non-Molestation or Occupation Order or to dismiss the application or consider whether “undertakings” are appropriate (promises to the court in the same/ similar terms as the orders sought). Before any final hearing, you will have the opportunity to prepare further evidence to assist the Court in reaching a decision. Police disclosure can also be obtained if there has been previous police involvement concerning domestic abuse as well as evidence from any witnesses, if relevant and appropriate.

Applying for injunctions without notice “ex-parte”

If there is a risk that notifying your abuser of the application could induce more violence or intimidation and/or there is a risk the respondent may evade service of the court papers, then it is possible to apply to Court on an ‘ex-parte’ basis, without notice to them. This means your abuser is unaware of the application until after the initial hearing and only at the point upon which the application and any orders granted are served on them – (once the respondent has been “served” with the papers you are protected by the terms of any order made). As the respondent would not be in attendance at the initial hearing if you have applied without notice to them, the court will list a further hearing “return hearing” at which you are both invited to attend so that the Judge can either confirm the orders remain in place (and for how long), dismiss the application or consider whether “undertakings” are appropriate.

 

Domestic Abuse Solicitors 

Ending a relationship on account of domestic abuse or any other forms of abuse can be difficult. Our team of legal aid family law solicitors specialise in domestic abuse cases and can assist with your situation and expand on the points set out above, as advice will be tailored to your specific circumstances.

Over the last 24 months, National Legal Service Solicitors has helped more than 2,500 survivors of abuse across our 19 branch offices secure Non-Molestation and Occupation Orders for those in need of protection along with Prohibited Steps, Child Arrangements and Specific Issue Orders.

To speak to our solicitors call 0203 601 5051 or complete our online enquiry form.

17.02.2020

Parental Alienation and Intractable Contact Disputes

Written by Nadia Butt

The most heart-wrenching part of a relationship break down is when parents lock horns in decisions relating to how much time the child spends with each parent or with whom the child should live with. A once whirlwind romance deteriorates into a barrage of hate, anger and revenge; the only thing that persists is each partner trying their utmost to prove who is to blame.

As a family law practitioner, it saddens me to see how some parents are unable to channel their energy into “acting in the best interest of the child”. How difficult must this be? One may say it is made difficult with the hostility that has been embellished within the breakdown, but I say, not at all. As parents, you must put the needs and welfare of your child at the forefront.  

So what happens in situations where tensions are broiling and hate is becoming an essential element of what once was an intoxicating surge of emotions and love? Well simply, the child is manipulated into a vacuum of detest, frustration and revenge which, in the most part, emulates the emotional climate of the relationship-the extreme negative behaviour exhibited by the one parent- on a whole undermining the child’s relationship with the other parent; known as intractable hostility. Consequently, the child refuses to spend time with the non-resident parent and becomes focussed upon ensuring that the resident parent is shown “loyalty”. 

It is from the intractable hostility along with the parents’ inability to distinguish the impact such behaviour has on their child which creates the avenue for Parental Alienation. Parental Alienation is seen as “a child’s resistance or hostility towards one parent is not justified and is the result of psychological manipulation by the other parent[1] . The Family Judges take serious issues with Parental alienation, as in any decision relating to child arrangement, the child’s welfare is the courts paramount consideration [2]. Which is, as I would argue, why it is not worth to castigate or blame the other parent and rather look to what would benefit the child now and in the future. Through this lens, it does indeed appear to be the simplest of tasks, yet it is inherently blurred by the self-imposed need to maintain animosity between one another. 

The most recent case worth mentioning considers the retribution a parent can face if it is concluded that parental alienation has occurred. The case of Re H (Parental Alienation) [2019][3]concerned a child aged 12, who lived with his mother. The parents separated in 2007, up until March 2018 the child enjoyed a vast amount of time with the father and the paternal family. However all did not remain well, and following mothers own relationship deteriorating with the father, she ceased contact and initiated children proceedings on the grounds of domestic violence against the father; several reports were prepared by the local authority alongside a report of an independent social worker- albeit all allegations were dismissed against the father. 

Following expert opinion from a psychologist- who assessed both parents and the child- it was reported that the child’s presentation suggested he was “triangulated within his parents conflictual relationship and was prioritising his mother’s needs over his”, he went on to report that the child’s “lack of ambivalence made his presentation more likely to be alienation than estrangement resulting from his father’s behaviour”. In essence, Keehan J accepted the findings of the psychologist without hesitation and found that the mother had alienated the child ergo, concluding the absence of the father from the child’s life had and will cause the child harm. Consequently, the court transferred the residency to the father and made an order for the mother to have contact with the child. 

It is therefore incumbent upon any parent to ensure that a child has a meaningful relationship with both sets of parents and extended family unless of course, there are serious welfare issues that simply cannot be ignored. 

 

Family & Child Care Solicitors in Birmingham

When Parental Alienation arises, it is crucial to address the hostile parent’s behaviour as well as consider arrangements which are in the best interests of the child thus ensuring a relationship is maintained with both parents.

If you feel that you are being alienated by your partner and would like to discuss the matter further, please contact us. Alternatively, if you are being accused of parental alienation, it is just as important to have experienced representation on your side. 

To speak with our Parental Alienation Solicitors in Birmingham, call us on 0203 6015051 or fill in our contact form.

 

 

 

[1] https://www.cafcass.gov.uk/grown-ups/parents-and-carers/divorce-and-separation

[2] S1, CA 1989

[3] EWHC 2723 (Fam)

14.02.2020

Professional McKenzie Friends: When saving money can cost you a fortune

Written by Jasbir Raindi

The Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offender Act 2012 [1] came into effect in England & Wales during April 2013. This statute, in part, dealt with how public funding would be granted. In respect of family proceedings, this would now primarily be limited to those people (or any relevant children the case concerned) who could demonstrate to the legal aid agency that they were at risk of or had suffered abuse.

I have personally witnessed courts and their staff facing very anxious people involved in sometimes very complex legal proceedings. This includes having to navigate themselves around the basics of litigation from presenting their cases to the court, to dealing with opponents, and to getting the correct paperwork in order. This gave rise to the proliferation of “professional” McKenzie Friends, filling the vacuum left by litigants desperate for representation and support.

 

What is a McKenzie Friend?

 

A McKenzie Friend (“MF”) is a vital component of the English Legal System for people who need support. Court proceedings are not an easy process to go through at any time and are quite simply daunting for most people represented, let alone those acting in person. For those who need support, a MF is ideal. The court needs to be notified immediately via the usher that a MF is being proposed to support a litigant. The MF needs to provide their CV to the usher and some courts require a form to be completed by the MF in respect of the MF supporting them. A McKenzie Friend cannot address the court as the advocate of the litigant, they cannot deal with litigation or case management on behalf of the litigant nor can he examine witnesses during trials. The court can grant the MF permission to speak on behalf of the litigant, known as granting “rights of audience,” but only after careful consideration and in exceptional circumstances.

Therefore, for the unrepresented party, the McKenzie Friend can prove to be of great assistance.

 

The Issue With McKenzie Friends

 

The difficulty has been the rise of “professional” MFs.

A solicitor, barrister, or legal executive undergoes academic legal training, a tough vocational course then rigorous training all prior to being formally qualified as a legal professional. Once qualified such lawyers are under scrutiny from their professional bodies, they agree to maintain ongoing training to maintain current knowledge and require professional indemnity insurance. Therefore, lawyers are very well trained and well regulated to administer legal advice, represent clients in and out of court and advocate on their behalf in court.

The stark difference is there are no legal requirements for a “professional” MF to undergo any professional training, to undergo any ongoing training, to have insurance in place, nor are they regulated in any manner whatsoever.

“Professional MFs” who charge for their services fill the void left by the legal aid agency for litigants believing, wrongly at times, that a lawyer would simply cost too much so they retain the services of a “professional” MF. This places that litigant at a distinct disadvantage of being at the risk of relying on incorrect advice and having no recourse at all if something goes wrong.

I have encountered MFs in court who relish the opportunity to speak on their client’s behalf outside court, proudly share their CVs (which invariably include details about the bad experience the MF had in the family court personally) and do their best to take over the hearing. All of which do nothing more than to work their already anxious and nervous client to fight anything suggested to settle or agree a dispute.

Every litigant is entitled to support in court, the MF system is there for that purpose to ensure everyone has a right to a fair trial and access to justice but, this has been exploited by disingenuous people offering help to litigants who may not understand the difference between professional lawyers and MFs.

If a MF is willing to help you they should do so without charge. This should be to reflect the strict limitations a MF faces inside and outside the courtroom. This also reflects the fact that any advice you rely on from the MF is at your own risk. If your friend told you to not to change a tyre on your car and you followed their advice when your tyre explodes you would not seek compensation from your friend. If a professionally trained mechanic at the dealership changed your tyre and it exploded they would be approached for repairs and compensation. The same principle applies here except that if you paid your MF for the advice and the tyre still exploded there are no safeguards in place that you would have with a professionally trained lawyer.

 

What are the alternatives if you cannot afford a Family lawyer?

 

The MF system works to help people who cannot afford a lawyer or are not entitled to legal aid. The MF system does not work when the MF is not trained, regulated, insured or competent to advise or represent you, AND they charge you for this.

If a MF wants to assist you, then this is a bonus as the burden is lightened in court so you can hopefully focus on discussions in court, the MF can take notes and help with any paperwork.

If a MF is not available almost every family and civil court has an organisation in the building known as Support through Court, formally known as the Personal Support Unit[2] available who essentially provide MFs to help you at court with documents, forms, drafting, filing and if available will sit with before during and after the hearing at no charge. As said above in exceptional circumstances the court is entitled to permit the MF to speak on your behalf during the court hearing.

Most solicitors offer a fixed fee scheme at  times less than or equal to what a “professional MF” will charge for advice, representation in court or both.

In conclusion, get a legal  specialist to provide professional advice and support, get a layperson to provide moral and practical support. This ensures that everyone knows where they are, what they can do, what they cannot do and,  more importantly, if you are paying, you are spending your hard-earned money wisely.

Legal Aid Family Law Solicitors

At National Legal Service Solicitors we are acutely aware of the devastating impact of the legal aid cuts – it is clearer now more than ever that Legal Aid matters. As a firm, we are committed to ensuring that our legal services can be provided to as many vulnerable people as possible through our network of 19 branch offices.

We are proud to be one the fastest growing legal aid firms in the UK, specialising in Domestic Abuse, Care Proceedings and Private Children Law matters. We also offer affordable rates for those who would have qualified for legal aid before the cuts. For more information, please call us on 0203 6015051 or fill in our contact form.

 

[1] http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2012/10/contents/enacted
[2]  https://www.supportthroughcourt.org/ 

31.01.2020

Domestic abuse and the problem with evidence

Written by Jasbir Raindi

A serious and ongoing issue for victims of domestic abuse is the problem with evidence. Let’s take Jack & Jill as an example (names picked at random). Jack and Jill were in a 3 year relationship and lived together for about 18 months before the relationship finally ended in December 2019. The problem was that Jack was controlling and violent towards Jill. Once the couple began living together and were locked into a rental agreement, Jack began to slowly tell Jill what to wear and whom she could speak to. This lead to Jack making Jill believe that nobody was there for her or cared for except for Jack himself. Jill was cut off from her family and friends. Jill was led to believe she had no choice but to stay with Jack. When Jill went out to the shops or to work, Jack would send her up to 20 messages throughout the day asking for constant updates about where she was and what she was doing.

Matters came to a head in June 2019 when Jill finally confronted Jack about his controlling ways. Jack struck Jill with a punch to her face, breaking her nose. Jill, shocked, ran and sought medical attention. However, Jack followed and took her to A&E where Jill convinced the nurse she was mugged. She was too afraid to tell the truth. Soon thereafter, Jill discovered that Jack had a drinking problem and hit Jill again whilst drunk and in a rage several more times. Jill finally had the courage to walk out of the shared home on 15th December 2019 to stay with her mother. Jack was not happy about this and began to follow Jill. He bombarded her with calls from private numbers which when Jill answered Jack would call her abusive names. The situation persisted until Jack came to Jill’s mother’s home, shouting threats at Jill and banging on the front door. When Jill was alone during the day,  Jack promised to return and make her life a misery for leaving him.

Jill called the police. Sadly, they only arrived the day after the threatening behaviour took place at the front door. The police took a statement from Jill about the threats, and about the history of violent behaviour and control. By this time any physical injuries Jill sustained had already healed and thus there was no medical evidence. The abuse all occurred behind closed doors and there were no witnesses to the problems at Jill’s mother’s front door. The police told Jill that the verbal abuse alone was insufficient evidence to proceed.

The difficulty Jill faced was that the police needed to be satisfied that they could ultimately prove to a criminal court the guilt of Jack’s behaviour beyond reasonable doubt – essentially that there was no doubt at all that Jack committed these offences. Unless there was some level of certainty about this, such as  an independent witnesses, admission of guilt from Jack, or evidence of injuries, the police were not likely to proceed to protect a victim like Jill.

However, there is another way. The Family Court only needs to be satisfied on balance of probabilities before making an order to protect Jill. This means that the court would take into account all of the evidence to make a decision whether it is more likely than not that Jill had been a victim of harm from Jack and was a victim of further harm.

Jill consulted her family solicitor who took full details about the history of the problems and risk of future harm. Jill was advised to ask the court to make a Non-Molestation Order for her protection from Jack to prevent him from contacting her in any manner, using violence against or threatening Jill. Jill was very worried that if Jack knew about what she was doing that he would escalate the harassment so Jill applied for and secured her Non-Molestation Order without notice to Jack. Jack was served with the order and Jill had immediate protection. If the order was now breached Jack would be arrested.

In summary, if the police and criminal justice system cannot help victims such as Jill, then the Family Court can step in. Hope is not lost.  Victims like Jill deserve to live life without further fear or anxiety and people like Jack need to have their behaviour controlled. Where the police cannot help always speak to a family Solicitor near you to consider your options.

National Legal Service Solicitors – Domestic Abuse Solicitors and Family Lawyers in Birmingham

The Birmingham branch has grown from a modest team of 2 solicitors and 3 caseworkers to over 15  advocates, paralegals and support staff situated in the former Lewis’s Department Store building next door to Birmingham Family Court.

Over the last 18 months, Supervising Solicitor Jasbir Raindi and his team in Birmingham have helped more than 400  survivors of abuse in securing Non-Molestation and Occupation Orders for adults and children in need of protection along with Prohibited Steps, Child Arrangements and Specific Issue Orders, to help parents safeguard their children. Our team specialises in representing parents and children involved in public law proceedings and matrimonial disputes.

Our team of Family solicitors in Birmingham specialise in representing victims of harm and children at risk of removal in emergencies to secure orders without notice to the opponent, when such notice could place the victim at immediate risk. We offer full legal advice to those who qualify and we always consider this before providing information about our private fees.

To speak to our solicitors in Birmingham call 0203 601 5051 or compete our online enquiry form.

10.11.2019

Thakmina Begum receives Law Society’s Children Law Panel Accreditation

Written by Rosita Mendonca

Congratulations to Thakmina Begum, one of our Supervising Solicitors within the London Family Law team who has been awarded the Law Society’s Children Law  Panel Accreditation.

The Children Law Accreditation provides a recognised quality standard for practitioners representing children in child law proceedings. The accreditation shows awareness, knowledge and expertise in this area of law.

Thakmina had to undergo rigorous evaluation to achieve the accreditation. Only experienced practitioners with Children Law Panel Accreditation can represent children in the Family Court either in conjunction with a Court appointed Children’s Guardian or upon independent instructions.

Kirsty Richards, Head of Family commented on Thakmina’s achievement

It’s a wonderful recognition and a great boost for the department and the new care team we are building. I’m extremely happy that Thakmina has been recognised as a specialist care solicitor and look forward to watching her career develop further with the firm

Situations involving children can be difficult and sensitive. Our experienced team are here to provide support and guidance in order to achieve the very best outcome for you and your family. Call us on 0203 6015051 to speak to our specialist Child Panel solicitors.

05.11.2019

Domestic Abuse bill falls for the second time in two months

Written by Rosita Mendonca

The Domestic Abuse Bill, which aimed to ‘transform the national response to domestic abuse’ and end the practice of allowing domestic abusers the opportunity to cross-examine their victims in court has fallen for a second time in two months on account of the next month’s general election.

All bills that have failed to achieve royal assent by the time parliament is dissolved on Wednesday will fall- this includes the Domestic Abuse Bill, which fell on 10 September, when parliament was unlawfully prorogued, but was reintroduced in the Queen’s speech on 14 October.

Also at a standstill are the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill, which introduces provisions for no-fault divorce, and the Courts and Tribunals (Online Procedure Bill).

30.09.2019

Care Crisis – Vulnerable children are being failed

Written by Rosita Mendonca

A recent BBC News investigation has found that looked-after teenagers over the age of 16 are at risk of exploitation and abuse whilst residing in unregulated homes across England and Wales. Such accommodation avoids inspection and regulation due to its provision of ‘support’ opposed to ‘care’, despite the vulnerabilities of these young people.

According to figures from the Department for Education, about 5,500 looked after children in England were living in this type of accommodation, up 70% from 10 years ago. This increase is attributable to the rise of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)-  these are experiences in which children are exposed to domestic violence, neglect, abuse, drug and alcohol addiction and untreated mental illness.

The recent BBC news article highlights cases at Centurion Care. One incident involves a resident who was not provided with sufficient care following incidents of self-harm, and another incident involved resident who absconded for a week despite being seen getting into a car with a large group of males.

One of the primary issues that the report highlights is that vulnerable young people were typically placed in towns away from where they were brought up. The Association of Directors of Children’s Services said: “There is a national shortage of foster carers and a growing disconnect between the location of residential children’s homes and need.”

The Department for Education in England has described how local authorities have a legal duty to ensure there is suitable accommodation for these children. Local authorities are in breach of duty in allowing the existence of these unregulated care homes that enable young people to be exposed to exploitation.

In a welcome move, the government has recently announced a £30 million funding boost that will assist law enforcement with pioneering new technologies to track down  paedophiles operating online and help safeguard children who have been abused.