Arianna Kelly and Parishil Patel QC act for a hospital trust in complex proceedings relating to a deprivation of liberty of a child in hospital and community settings
Following on the recent cases of Re G (Young Person: Threat to Life: Unavailability of Secure Placement)  EWHC 2066 (Fam) and Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council v W and others  EWHC 1982 (Fam), Mrs Justice Knowles considered the position of accommodating 15-year-old children in unregulated accommodation in W (Young Person: Unavailability of Suitable Placement)  EWHC 2345 (Fam).
The case related to a 15-year-old girl, W, who was in psychological and emotional distress and was engaging in significant self-harming behaviour. She was deprived of her liberty in hospital after she was admitted following a serious attempt to harm herself, and remained detained after she was medically fit for discharge because her family did not feel able to care for her at home. Remaining in hospital was considered by all professionals to be detrimental to her, as was being sent to 'secure accommodation' or being admitted as a psychiatric inpatient, as she did not have any treatable mental illness.
W remained in hospital as the local authority searched hundreds of children's homes without finding one which was able to help her. The local authority finally, and reluctantly, proposed a bespoke placement in short-term accommodation, with a provider which was not registered with Ofsted.
The court considered the challenges posed due to the lack of suitable placements for W:
- Whatever the difficulties with registration are, the local authority has no other option for W. There is no secure accommodation provision available and, even if such accommodation were available, the professional consensus is that it is not in W's best interests to be so placed. The hospital evidence is that W is being harmed by remaining in hospital notwithstanding the difficulty the hospital experience by reason of her occupancy of an adult surgical bed. I accept the urgent need for W to move from the hospital to a placement created with her particular needs in mind. It is unfortunate that the temporary accommodation in which she will live is only available until 6 September 2021 and that W will have to move from that date to other accommodation which the local authority accept it needs to find as a matter of considerable urgency. I am also satisfied that the restrictions on W's liberty are both necessary and proportionate to meet her welfare needs.
- That is, regrettably, not the end of the matter. This placement will not only be potentially illegal but will be unlawful with effect from 9 September 2021 because of the amendments contained within the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/161).…
- The local authority entirely accepts the aims and appropriateness of the new regulatory framework, given the widely publicised difficulties caused by the use of unregistered children's homes. However, whilst the government has increased national funding for the expansion of the network of children's homes, there is a paucity of provision at this time. W is a young person who will not benefit from such an institutional setting and who cannot be placed in the alternative of foster care given the extent of her difficulties. She falls between two stools…
Arianna Kelly and Parishil Patel QCacted on behalf of the hospital trust.
You can read the full judgment here.