UPDATE FEB 2017 : In light of the judgment of the Court of Appeal in Hackney v Williams (see here) we will be looking at our guidance note to see if it needs amendment or updating.

Following on from the guidance about recording that we published in December 2015, we’ve now put together some guidance on the use of voluntary accommodation, under section 20 of the Children Act 1989. As with the previous guidance, we’ve intentionally written guidance which we think will be useful and accessible for both professionals and parents / family members, and which we hope they might work through together or refer one another to.

The use (and misuse) of section 20 accommodation has been the subject of recent significant judicial criticism and media comment. It is clear that problems arise when children ‘drift’ in the care system under section 20 without proper plans being made for their future, or when parents feel they were under pressure to agree to section 20 accommodation without fully understanding the consequences. So we felt that guidance on this topic would be really timely.

We’re a collaborative project and tend to draft collaboratively, but Sarah Phillimore has led the drafting of this piece of guidance. She says :

The issue of ‘parental responsibility’ and who can make decisions for children under section 20 also has the potential to cause serious difficulties as it seems many parents (and some social workers) are not always clear about the impact of section 20 on their ability to exercise parental responsibility for the children.

We’d appreciate any feedback on the guidance, as well as suggestions for future guidance documents that might be helpful. Nothing is perfect, and we genuinely welcome suggestions for improvement on what we’ve put together. We propose to gather any suggested amendments or feedback together over the next couple of weeks and issue any revised version at that point. Please email info@transparencyproject.org.uk or tweet us on @seethrujustice.

Download the guidance here.

Download the press release here.