Court of Appeal provides guidance on the application of s.31(3A-B) CA89 and primacy of the ACA 2002 welfare checklist in care proceedings where care plan is one of placement for adoption

2nd Apr 2024 | Cases

In Re J (Care Plan for Adoption) [2024] EWCA Civ 265 Jonathan Sampson KC, leading Vicky Reynolds, was instructed by Shazia Rana of Duncan Lewis Solicitors for the Appellant mother and Nick Goodwin KC, leading Daniel Sheridan, was instructed by Denise Higgins of Woodfines Solicitors on behalf of the child.

The successful appeal overturned a decision in care proceedings where the judge had made a final care order approving a plan which she described as ‘permanence outside the family’ in circumstances where the Local Authority’s true plan was one of adoption but it was unable to advance that plan because it had failed to issue a placement order application. The Court of Appeal in considering the ambit of s.31(3A) and (3B) of the Children Act 1989 concluded that the proper application of these sections to the plan that was actually before the Court would have necessitated an analysis under s.1 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 which the learned judge failed to carry out. The appeal was allowed on the basis that:

(1) The judge was wrong to make a final care order in circumstances where the court did not have a complete care plan before it to underpin the final care order that it made.

(2) The judge erred in her welfare and proportionality evaluation which was flawed and unfair because the judge adopted a linear, as opposed to holistic, approach, whereby the mother’s case and the other options available were argued, considered and evaluated under the Children Act only, and not on the basis of the heightened test for adoption (that ‘nothing else will do’) as summarised by Baroness Hale in Re B (A Child) (Care Proceedings: Threshold Criteria) [2013] UKSC 33.

Reported in Local Government Lawyer.

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