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3.1.5 Guidance to Accommodating Children under Section 20 Children Act 1989

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter reflects the key legal framework in accommodating and removing a child accommodated under Section 20 (1989 Children Act). The chapter provides a useful checklist and model agreement form which should be signed by a parent/person with parental responsibility who is consenting to Accommodation. Care should be taken in ensuring that informed Consent is provided and the person with parental responsibility has appropriate capacity to undertake this (see Decision to Look After and Care Planning Procedure, Obtaining Parental Consent).

RELEVANT GUIDANCE

DfE, The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (2015)

ADCS, Practice Guidance for the Use of Section 20 Provision in The Children Act 1989 in England and the Equivalent Section 76 of the Social Services and Well-Being (Wales) Act 2014 in Wales

Community Care Inform: Section 20: putting the guidance from case law into practice

RELEVANT CHAPTER

Decision to Look After and Care Planning Procedure

Ceasing to Look After a Child Procedure

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in September 2017 to add a new Appendix 2: Section 20 Certification Upon Obtaining Section 20 Form, a checklist for social workers accommodating children under Section 20 (Children Act 1989).


Contents

  1. Section 20 Powers
  2. Before Providing Accommodation Under Section 20
  3. Removal from Section 20 Accommodation
  4. Social Work Decision Making

    Appendix 1: Section 20 Agreement between Southwark Council and Parents

    Appendix 2: Section 20 Certification Upon Obtaining Section 20 Form


1. Section 20 Powers

  1. The Children Act 1989 Section 20 outlines the following circumstances when a local authority should provide Accommodation for any child in need within the area:
    1. There being no person who has Parental Responsibility for him;
    2. The child being lost or having been abandoned; or
    3. The person who has been caring for the child being prevented (whether or not permanently, and for whatever reason) from providing him with suitable accommodation or care.
  2. Where a local authority provides accommodation for a child who is ordinarily resident in the area of another local authority, that other local authority may take over the provision of accommodation for the child within:
    1. Three months of being notified in writing that the child is being provided with accommodation; or
    2. Such other longer period as may be prescribed.
  3.  A local authority shall provide accommodation for any child in need within their area who has reached the age of sixteen and whose welfare the authority consider is likely to be seriously prejudiced if they do not provide him with accommodation;
  4. A local authority may provide accommodation for any child within their area (even though a person who has parental responsibility for him is able to provide him with accommodation) if they consider that to do so would safeguard or promote the child’s welfare;
  5.  A local authority may provide accommodation for any person who has reached the age of sixteen but is under twenty-one in any community home which takes children who have reached the age of sixteen if they consider that to do so would safeguard or promote his welfare.


2. Before Providing Accommodation Under Section 20

The local authority shall, so far as is reasonably practicable and consistent with the child’s welfare:

  1. Ascertain the child’s wishes and feelings regarding the provision of accommodation; and
  2. Give due consideration (having regard to his age and understanding) to such wishes and feelings of the child as they have been able to ascertain.

A local authority may not provide accommodation under this section for any child if any person who has parental responsibility for him and is willing and able to either:

  1. Provide accommodation for him; or
  2. Arrange for accommodation to be provided for him, objects.

(See also Decision to Look After and Care Planning Procedure)


3. Removal from Section 20 Accommodation

Any person who has parental responsibility for a child may at any time remove the child from accommodation provided by or on behalf of the local authority. The only time this is not true is if there is agreement for accommodation by someone who is:

  1. Named in a Child Arrangements Order as a person with whom the child is to live; or
  2. Who is a Special Guardian of the child; or
  3. Who has care of the child by virtue of an order made in the exercise of the High Court’s inherent jurisdiction with respect to children.

N.B. Where there is more than one person meeting the above criteria then all of them must agree.

The above do not apply where a child who has reached the age of sixteen agrees to being provided with accommodation under this section.

(See also Ceasing to Look After a Child Procedure).


4. Social work decision making

Before agreeing to accommodate a child under Section 20, the social worker should consider and act on the checklist included within the Section 20 of the Children Act 1989, Certification by social worker upon obtaining Section 20 consent. This form to be signed by the social worker and saved in Carestore.

The social worker must ensure that a parent is able to consent to the Section 20 agreement and must wherever possible ensure that the Model Section 20 agreement is understood by the parent and signed.


Appendix 1: Section 20 Agreement between Southwark Council and Parents

Click here to view Appendix 1: Section 20 Agreement between Southwark Council and Parents.


Appendix 2: Section 20 Certification Upon Obtaining Section 20 Form

Click here to view Appendix 2: Section 20 Certification Upon Obtaining Section 20 Form.

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