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A County Council v M & H & T [2021] EWFC 35

A local authority’s application not to assess a grandmother as a carer was granted and the grandmother’s application for a Special Guardianship Order or a Child Arrangements Order was dismissed.

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Due to their young age and an unplanned pregnancy discovered late in the day (amongst other matters), H's parents approached the local authority before the birth of H to arrange an adoption. H was placed with 'foster to adopt' parents.  On learning of this, the paternal grandmother told the social worker she wished to care for H. The parents objected on grounds which included that the grandmother was a single parent of limited means who had suffered episodes of depression. The wider paternal family did not support the grandmother's application.

The grandmother then applied for a Special Guardianship Order or a Child Arrangements Order in respect to H, a seven-month-old child. The local authority applied under the inherent jurisdiction for permission not to assess the grandmother as a potential carer. The matter came before Mrs Justice Judd for determination on submissions.

The court considered the local authority's duty, under the Adoption and Children Act 2002, to consider the child's wider family as potential carers. Account was also taken of the Adoption Agencies Regulations 2005 and relevant case law. The judge assessed the Children Act 1989, section 10 in regard to applications for leave to apply for a section 8 order.

The judge noted: parents do not have a right to have their child adopted; family members do not have a right to an assessment nor, without leave, a right to apply for a child arrangements order. She found that to grant the grandmother's application "would risk disruption to such an extent that H would be harmed" and would "lead to delay to a permanent outcome for H with, in my judgment, very little likelihood of the grandmother's application being successful, even though it would be an alternative to adoption." [50]

Due to a careful analysis of H's situation by the Guardian, the judge had sufficient information to determine the grandmother's application without the need for a full enquiry or assessment.

The local authority's application was granted and that of the grandmother was dismissed.

Case summary by Dr Sara Hunton, Barrister, Field Court Chambers

For full case summary, please see BAILII