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Our Public Law solicitors helped a Peterborough family win a High Court legal battle after their seven-year-old daughter was placed under a child protection plan with no evidence of neglect.
In 2015, the family was in the middle of an on-going dispute with Peterborough City Hospital about how best to treat their young daughter, who has autism. She had stopped eating and drinking a few years previous and had a naso-gastric tube fitted in order to feed her.
The doctors wanted the girl to go to a residential assessment centre called The Croft for several weeks, but her parents disagreed and asked for second medical opinion. Rather than address the family’s concerns or seeking a second opinion, the clinicians reported the family to social services. In March 2015, the Local Authority placed the child under child protection with a category of ‘neglect’.
This was an enormous shock for the family. The Local Authority had already assessed the child’s situation less than a year earlier, concluding that the girl’s home education was excellent and that her mother provided “a great deal of emotional warmth”.
Even worse, however, was the fact that the child protection plan did nothing to help their daughter get the medical treatment she needed. The child had no treating team in place and had to be taken to the hospital on a monthly basis for distressing changes to her naso-gastric tube.
Her parents contacted our Protecting Your Rights team to see if we could help. We brought a Judicial Review at the High Court in June 2016 on behalf of the family against Peterborough City Council. The Judge quashed the child protection decision, ruling that it was unlawful and there was no evidence of neglect.
We also helped the family come to an agreement with the hospital and the Local Authority over their daughter’s medical treatment. Through mediation, it was agreed that the girl did not have to go to The Croft residential care centre and that she could receive her parents’ preferred option of treatment provided by Addenbrookes Hospital.
The child’s mother said: “We are relieved that the High Court has found there was no evidence of neglect and has quashed the child protection decision, and made a declaration that the decision was null and void. We are also thrilled that through mediation we were able to obtain for our daughter the treatment we had always thought was in her best interests. We can now concentrate on ensuring that our daughter continues to get the treatment she needs.”
The young girl’s case was handled by Caroline Barrett, a specialist solicitor in our Public Law & Human Rights team. She said: “There are legal mechanisms which hospitals and councils can use to try and resolve disputes over a child’s best interests, and what medical treatment they should receive. It was not appropriate in this case for our client to have been placed on a child protection plan and for her family to have been accused of ‘neglect’.”
“Although this latest judgment is obviously specific to the facts of this particular case, this judgment should hopefully provide a warning to other local authorities to ensure they work with families, consider the purpose of the child protection measures, and lawfully apply the relevant guidance, when making these decisions in future.”
If you or a family member has been treated unfairly by social services, our Health & Social Care Law solicitors may be able to help you get the support you need. Call us on 0370 1500 100 or contact us online for a free initial consultation.
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