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Case update 30 March 2022

High Court refuses permission in our children in care case

Yesterday, we asked the High Court to reconsider its decision not to allow our judicial review challenge to out-of-area placements for children in care to proceed. We are sorry to have to tell you that the refusal has been upheld.

Local authorities have a legal duty to provide accommodation locally for children in their care. We brought this claim against five local authorities who we thought were failing to meet that duty, and against the Secretary of State for Education for failing to step in. 

Permission was initially refused based on what all parties now agree was a misunderstanding of the relevant duty by the Judge.

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But today a new Judge has ruled that, for different reasons, the claim should not proceed. He found that the Court can’t interfere unless a local authority’s actions meet the high threshold of being actions that no reasonable local authority could take; and here, they did not. 

We are discussing with our lawyers whether to appeal the decision, but have closed the crowdfunding page in the meantime.

The Court found that Good Law Project would probably have had standing to bring the claim. It rejected the Secretary of State’s contention that the Runnymede case means we will never have standing. 

Last week, we pointed out that one local authority, Surrey, had taken seriously the failings highlighted by our claim and was taking steps to redress them. In the circumstances, we discontinued our claim against Surrey. Since we issued proceedings, all of the other local authorities have taken some, albeit we consider inadequate, steps to show that they are grappling with their policy failures.

Looked-after children are amongst the most vulnerable in the country. And we know that the choice by certain local authorities to save money by dumping them in accommodation far from everything they know places them at increased risk of criminal or sexual exploitation.

We have yet to decide whether to appeal. But, come what may, we intend to continue to fight for the many children whose parents cannot look after them and who, tragedy on tragedy, are also being let down by the local authorities who are supposed to help them.

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