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Continued lack of secure placements

Sophia Stapleton appeared for the local authority in A County Council v A (a child) [2021] EWFC B46.

All of the parties, save for the child, agreed that secure accommodation was in the child’s best interests. The child had a history of absconding and was likely to continue to abscond. There was also clear evidence that the child put himself and others at risk when he has gone missing. A psychiatrist also concluded that the child was only likely to engage in recommended treatment in a secure setting.

However, at the time of the final hearing, there remained no identified secure placement. Due to the lack of a secure placement, with little prospect of such a placement being identified in the near future, the court made a care order with a number of restrictions under the inherent jurisdiction to be imposed on the child.

This case is added to the growing list of examples of the lack of placements for children to meet their needs.

HHJ Scarratt directed as follows:

"This judgment, when approved and published, shall be sent by the Local Authority to the Children's Commissioner for England, the Secretary of State for Education and the Minister for Children as well as the Chief Social Worker and the Secure Welfare Coordination Unit. I do not think that they can receive enough judgments from Her Majesty's judges which set out the grim reality of the situation for people in A's position who are a danger to themselves and to others and for whom being placed in residential placements is simply not the answer."

Sophia Stapleton is a barrister in chambers specialising in family and criminal law.

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