Help us reinstate the rights of children in care in England

by Article 39

Help us reinstate the rights of children in care in England

by Article 39
Article 39
Case Owner
Article 39 is a small, independent charity which fights for the rights of children living in institutions. Registered charity no. 1166092.
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Article 39
Case Owner
Article 39 is a small, independent charity which fights for the rights of children living in institutions. Registered charity no. 1166092.
Pledge now

This case is raising funds for its stretch target. Your pledge will be collected within the next 24-48 hours (and it only takes two minutes to pledge!)

Latest: Aug. 7, 2020

We are appealing to the Court of Appeal

In a judgment handed down today (7 August), the High Court finds that Article 39 was correct to warn that vital safeguards for children in care were removed or diluted overnight in April. However, th…

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We are taking legal action against the Department for Education, which removed or diluted 65 safeguards for children in care overnight (23/24 April 2020) without any public consultation or time given for parliamentary scrutiny and debate.

Our grounds for legal challenge concentrate on six areas of policy in particular:

  • The dilution of duties relating to social worker visits to children in care, where even a six-weekly telephone call is no longer mandatory;
  • The removal of the duty to hold six-monthly reviews of children in care;
  • The loss of safeguards for children placed out of area with people who are not connected to them;
  • The loss of safeguards in relation to short breaks, particularly affecting disabled children; 
  • The loss of independent scrutiny (pre-court stage) and other safeguards in adoption; and
  • The dilution of the duty on children’s homes to ensure that an independent person visits each month and reports on children’s welfare there.  

We are seeking a court order quashing Statutory Instrument 445 (its full title is The Adoption and Children (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020). We argue that the changes to children’s legal protections are a disproportionate response to the Covid-19 crisis and significantly increase the level of risk to many children who are already exceptionally vulnerable. These changes were rushed through without the opportunity for any parliamentary scrutiny, and with no meaningful consultation. They are contrary to the objects and purpose of primary legislation, particularly the Children Act 1989. We believe the Secretary of State for Education breached his statutory duty to consider the need to promote the welfare of children when laying them, required by the Children and Young Persons Act 2008.

Government Ministers have reiterated that Statutory Instrument 445 will expire on 25 September 2020 “unless extended”. Even so, several provisions will continue beyond this date irrespective of the actions of Ministers.

As a small charity, we are taking a considered risk in bringing this case. But we cannot stand by and allow government to side-step democratic processes and remove vital legal protections from children in care. The people most affected by these changes - children and young people - have not been consulted.

We hope to raise £8,000 as a contribution to our legal costs and unavoidable court fees and charges, should we lose. (We need more than this but we'll try and make up the difference ourselves). If we win, we will set aside whatever we raise for future legal actions to protect the rights of vulnerable children.

Times are tough for everyone right now. We'd be very grateful for any help you can give. THANK YOU.

Article 39 is represented by Oliver Studdert from Irwin Mitchell, Jenni Richards QC and Steve Broach from 39 Essex Chambers, and Khatija Hafesji from Monckton Chambers.

You can find us @article_39 on Twitter #ScrapSI445

Photo by Jelleke Vanooteghem on Unsplash

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Update 2

Article 39

Aug. 7, 2020

We are appealing to the Court of Appeal

In a judgment handed down today (7 August), the High Court finds that Article 39 was correct to warn that vital safeguards for children in care were removed or diluted overnight in April. However, the Department for Education was not found to have acted unlawfully. Article 39 is now seeking an urgent appeal of the judgment focusing on the government’s failure to consult children, children’s rights organisations and the Children’s Commissioner for England.

You can read more here.

Please support us if you can.

Update 1

Article 39

June 26, 2020

We have permission for judicial review - thank you!

Thank you to everyone who is supporting our appeal - by donations and sharing among your networks. We couldn't do this without you.

Today we heard the wonderful news that we have been granted permission for a judicial review of the Department for Education’s removal and dilution of children’s legal protections pushed through overnight in April, under the guise of COVID-19. Given the seriousness of the legal changes, and the vulnerability of the affected children, we asked the court for the case to be expedited; this has also been agreed and the High Court hearing will take place on 27 and 28 July.

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