Definition of signifigant harm

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Concerned Aunt 123
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Joined: Thu Jul 29, 2021 1:41 am

Definition of signifigant harm

Post by Concerned Aunt 123 » Wed Aug 04, 2021 8:26 am

Hi I home someone can help!

My brother was awarded custody of my nephew in a shared care agreement in October 2019.

On the 11th of April my brother committed suicide and my nephew god love him found him. I was looking after him in the immediate aftermath and on the 12th of April his mother sent social services to my door! . This is because I would not allow her to see him (the day after my brothers death).

Long story short it was heated with social services as I have never dealt with them and believed they would take my nephew away and place him with his mother who we felt was not fit to provide his care. On the 14th of April they came and removed him under an emergency interim care order.

My question is what signifigant harm do you think they used to remove him?His step mother was aware he was with me so he was safe!

Secondly there have been 2 positive SGO assements in his care case myself paternal aunt and a maternal cousin (who is placed with under the interim order. SS advised me 45mins before the care plan review meeting that they will be supporting the cousin to have SGO and not us because they look after his maternal half sibling (aged 2 and 9months) seen each other 3 times in 2 years.

What about the half paternal sibling he has know all his life aged 13years. They have not asked her what she feels or assesd this link.

Not 1 single social worker has visited my home when we have had our nephew in our care at weekend and when asked why we were told "you have him on weekends we don't work weekends" disgracefully.

We have decided to request to be party to the case to contest this plan what chance have we got to win?
The cost have been estimated at 10k and we don't qualify for financial aid either

Thanks any help will be appreciated

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Suzie, FRG Adviser
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Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2011 11:25 am

Re: Definition of signifigant harm

Post by Suzie, FRG Adviser » Fri Aug 27, 2021 3:06 pm

Dear Concerned aunt 123

Thank you for your post. My name is Suzie and I am FRG’s online adviser.

I am sorry to hear the difficulties you are currently facing, and of the death of your brother earlier this year.

You have explained that after your brother died, you immediately took on the care of your nephew. Children’s services subsequently became involved and made an application to the Family Court for an interim care order. The court made an interim care order on 14 April, and your nephew has since been placed with a maternal cousin.

The care proceedings are ongoing and you have been positively assessed as a possible special guardian for your nephew, as has the maternal cousin with whom he is living. You understand that children’s services are likely to propose a long-term plan that your nephew should continue to live with the maternal cousin under a special guardianship order. You would like to be joined as a party to the care proceedings as you would like your nephew to live with you. You are concerned that children’s services have not observed your contact with your nephew.

Significant harm
Significant harm is the degree of harm a child must be suffering (or at risk of suffering) before children’s services may apply for a public law order, such as a care order. Significant harm is a phrase introduced by the Children Act 1989. The Act does not define ‘significant’. The question of whether or not harm is ‘significant’ relates to the impact on a child’s health or development. Physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and neglect are all categories of significant harm. It can also include harm caused by seeing someone else being mistreated. For example, by witnessing domestic abuse.

Before the court can consider making a care order children’s services must prove that a ‘threshold’ has been met. Children’s services must be able to provide to the court that:
  • • The child is suffering (or is likely to suffer) significant harm, and
    • That harm is the result of the care being given to the child at home OR to the child being beyond the parents’ control.
A court will only make an interim care order if it has reasonable grounds to believe that a child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm. In making an interim care order, the court’s decision must be limited to issues that cannot wait until the final hearing and the child’s removal from the family home can only be ordered if it is necessary to ensure the child’s immediate protection. In all cases, the court must be satisfied that making an interim care order is in the child’s best interests.

It is not possible to specifically advise you on what children’s services considered significant harm in relation to your nephew, which led them to issuing care proceedings. However, you may find an explanation about their concerns, which led to them issuing proceedings in your special guardianship assessment. You should have been provided a copy of this assessment. If you do not have a copy of the assessment, you should request one by writing to your nephew’s social worker. In addition, if you become a party to proceedings (see below), you will be entitled to receive a copy of all of the court papers, which will include information about the threshold criteria that were met, to enable the court to make an interim care order.

Special guardianship order
You have mentioned that you have been positively assessed as a possible special guardian for your nephew, and so it may be helpful to have some information about special guardianship. A special guardianship is a court order that says a child will live permanently with someone (who is not their parent) until they are 18. A person with parental responsibility is responsible for the care and wellbeing of the child. This includes, providing a home for the child, protecting and caring for the child and consenting to the child’s medical treatment.

A person with special guardianship has exclusive parental responsibility. This means that although the special guardian should consult with parents about important decisions relating to the child, the special guardian can make the final decision. You can find more information and advice on special guardianship here

Final care plans for your nephew, and the final hearing
In respect of long-term arrangements, you have said that children’s services have completed a positive assessment for you as a potential special guardian for the children. You have mentioned that the maternal cousin has also been positively assessed as a long-term carer for the child and that children’s services are supportive of her. You have not mentioned whether your nephew’s mother is putting herself forward as a carer for her son. The court will look at all options for your nephew, including living with his mother. If he cannot live with his mother, then the court will consider family and friends care.
As part of the care proceedings, children’s services will need to draw up a final care plan for your nephew. The care plan should be a detailed plan which covers how the child’s needs will be met and the arrangements for your nephew’s care now and in the future. The care plan must set out:
  • • Where the child will live and why this is best for them
    • Long term plans for the child
    • How the child’s needs will be met including their education, health and developmental needs, including social and emotional and development
    • Contact arrangements – with their parents, siblings and wider family and friends’ network
    • Name of the child’s independent reviewing officer

Then, at the final hearing, the judge will look at what the care plan and options for a child’s long-term arrangements. The final decisions that are made in care proceedings are about:
  • • The best long-term care arrangements for the child
    • Who the child should have an ongoing relationship with and stay in touch with. This includes who the child should see, how often and other such arrangements. This often referred to as ‘contact arrangements’
    • Whether any kind of court order is needed to put those arrangements in place.
From what you have shared it sounds like the options before the court are likely to be whether to make special guardianship orders in favour of you or the maternal cousin. The court will need to consider your nephew’s wishes and feelings. His views will be considered in light of his age and maturity. As he is 13 years old, his views should be given greater weight.

All parties to the care proceedings will be able to put their views to the court either by writing a witness statement or giving oral evidence at the final hearing. This will be a chance for different people involved in the case to explain their point of view or their recommendations.
You can find details information and advice about what to expect at the final hearing here
In terms of how you will contest children’s services’ plan for your nephew to live with the material cousin, ultimately you will need to demonstrate to the court that his needs are best met in your care. It will be for the judge or magistrates hearing the case to decide between placing your nephew with you or the maternal cousin. It is important to remember when making a decision, the child’s best interests will be the court’s paramount consideration. In determining what is in the child’s best interests, the court will look at the ‘welfare checklist’.
The welfare checklist is a list of things set out in section 1(3) of the Children Act 1989. The court must take into account:
  • • The child’s wishes and feelings (bearing the child’s age and understanding)
    • The child’s needs (physical, emotional and educational)
    • The likely effect on the child of any changes in their circumstances
    • The child’s age, sex and background (and any other relevant characteristics)
    • Any harm the child has suffered (or any risk of harm)
    • The parents’ ability to meet the child’s needs
Children’s services observing contact
It is concerning that children’s services have not visited you during contact sessions with your nephew. We would advise making a formal request to children’s services to come and observe contact, noting that they should not reach a final conclusion about the best care plan for your nephew without observing your relationship and time together. It may be worth proposing alternative contact arrangements. For example, proposing that you spend time with your nephew on a week day, to enable the social worker to observe contact. If they are not receptive to this request, this may be something you can raise with the court as a gap in evidence.

Becoming a party to proceedings

From what you have said, it sounds as though the care proceedings are moving towards a final hearing. You have said that you will be applying to become a party to the care proceedings This is a good idea, as it will ensure your wish to become a carer for your nephew will be heard.

You can do this by issuing an application to become a special guardian. When issuing this application, it can be joined to children’s services application for a care order and be heard at the same hearings with the same parties.

It is not always necessary to issue an application to become a special guardian, because the court has the power to make a special guardianship order at the final hearing in care proceedings, without a separate application having been made.

Alternatively, you can just ask the court to make you a party to the care proceedings. It will be up to the Judge or Magistrates hearing the case as to whether you will be made a party and they will consider whether you have a distinct case to present to the court. As you have been positively assessed as a potential special guardian for your nephew, the court may see it as a beneficial to have you joined as a party to proceedings.

Whether you decide to make an application for special guardianship or to join the care proceedings, you will be making the application in existing care proceedings. This means you will need to complete court form C2. To complete this form you will need the name of the court, case number and details of the other parties. A fee of £155 is payable when making this application. You may be able to get help paying all or part of the fee from the court, you can find further information on gov.uk website .

When you are made a party to proceedings you should receive a copy of the court bundle. The court bundle will include all assessment reports, children’s guardian’s analysis and recommendations, a care plan and written statements from the social worker and family members. As a party to proceedings, you will also have the opportunity to provide a statement to the court.

You should also receive a copy of the court order listing the issues resolution hearing or the final hearing. Our dedicated issues resolution hearing and final hearing pages offer information and advice on the purpose of each hearing. If you do not know the date of the next hearing you should ask the children’s social work or children services’ legal team to confirm.

Contact between your nephew and his sibling
You have raised a concern that contact between your nephew and his paternal sibling has not been considered. Children’s services have a legal duty to promote contact between a child and their siblings and contact arrangements should form part of their placement plan. This table looks at the law and guidance about contact that applies when a child is looked after in the care system. Children’s services have a legal duty to take into account your nephew’s views on sibling contact. As he is 13 his views on contact will be important and should be taken into account by children’s services.

Legal advice
Legal representation can be costly. You may be interested in looking at ‘flexible instruction’ of a solicitor. This means that instead of instructing a solicitor for the full length of the case, you can seek advice at specific stages of proceedings. For example, you can get some initial advice on your special guardianship assessment or assistance in writing you statement for the final hearing. Or for representation at the final hearing

To find a solicitor, search using the ‘how to find a solicitor’ function on the Law Society website. Look for someone who is a child law specialist. Or who has ‘Children Law Accreditation’ . For information about finding a solicitor and working with them, please see our top tips guide Working with a solicitor .
If you are not successful in securing legal representation before the final hearing, then you should still pursue a special guardianship within the care proceedings. You can find detailed information and advice about how to do this as a litigant in person in our DIY special guardianship orders: care proceedings advice sheet.

Next steps
In terms of next steps I would advise:
  • 1. Writing to children’s services making a formal request for them to observe contact between you and your nephew
    2. If you are made a party to proceedings, ask for a full copy of the court bundle. This will help you prepare for the final hearing and in the care proceedings
    3. Prepare for the final hearing by seeking independent legal advice and/or reviewing the final hearing section of our Care (and related) proceedings page.
If you would like to discuss the situation with an adviser, please call our freephone advice helpline on 0808 8010366; the lines are open Monday to Friday from 9.30am to 3pm. Or please reply to this post if you have further questions.

Best wishes
Suzie

Concerned Aunt 123
Posts: 2
Joined: Thu Jul 29, 2021 1:41 am

Re: Definition of signifigant harm

Post by Concerned Aunt 123 » Wed Sep 01, 2021 7:40 am

Thanks for the reply,

My nephew is 10 years old his guardian stated his feelings are conficted and his feelings on what he wants should not be focused on to much. The LA and us have raised concerns around things my nephew has said to us implying he may be getting conditiond to feel he wishes to stay with mum, if this is the case then the current cares are not doing a very good job in supervised contact.

Mother has had a negative assesment and what's to contest and wishes for him to return to her, if not her then to a distant maternal relative who currently cares for 2 more of her children.

We are now party and have had sight of sibling assements which focus only on my nephew and his 2 half siblings who reside with his current carers. I have pointed out that no observations or assesments have been done on my nephew and his half siblings that reside here. The Guardian has stated that the sibling assesment is defective as no consideration was given to my nephews older two half siblings.

From this the court instructed amendments to this (resulted in a short conversation with each child verbally) and no observations of them together!!

This conversation has not changed the LA view. We have asked the court to consider an independent assesment however we are unable to source this within the court timetables so looks like it won't go ahead, also we pay for legal representatives so the cost involved in this is something we can not afford along with the existing costs.

We are at a loss! Without a proper assesment what will the court likely do?

The threshold criteria was not presented to court at the time of the emergency care order was made it was submitted 2 weeks after stating it was late due to exceptional circumstances of this case.

A second IRH has been planned for after these assesments befor the final hearing....our fear is that all involved will just agree with the updates and place him with the distant relatives.

Contact at the moment I every 2 weeks (this has not been stuck to as mum excessive her paternal rights resulting in my nephew not seeing us for a period of 5 weeks and propsed contact will be 6 times a year.

Mum post placement has been offered once a month.

Relations with Mum and our whole family are strained to say the least due to what she previously put our family and nephew through however as I've stated I am willing to effectively bite my tongue for my nephews benefit. She has begun a slander campaign and when referring to myself and my husband we are referred to as the paternal family we feel her thought process is geared toward her selfish reasons only and not what's best for her child.

our legal representative states it all hinges on the defective assesment and a positive independent assessment of the other children. So we are at a loss as we can't get the assesments done withing the court timetable and afford it either 😔
Concerned aunt!

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Suzie, FRG Adviser
Posts: 771
Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2011 11:25 am

Re: Definition of signifigant harm

Post by Suzie, FRG Adviser » Thu Sep 09, 2021 11:01 am

Dear Concerned Aunt 123

Thank you for the update.

From what you have written, I can see that what is happening in the proceedings is still worrying for you and that you are very concerned about your nephew’s future. At this point you, as your legal representative has advised, you can only await the outcomes of assessments and the decision of the court.

The court will make all their decisions with regard to the welfare principle and checklist. In care proceedings, those with parental responsibility (PR) are always considered as an option to care for a child or children before those without PR. In your family’s case the mother has received a negative assessment but will contest/challenge the local authority and other parties during the final hearing. The mother’s views about her child living with someone other than with you and his sibling who resides with you will be considered when the court is making the order. In all cases – courts make their decisions in the interests of the child.

It may be useful for you (and the child you care for) to ensure that whatever the outcome sibling contact is discussed and plans are made (or strengthened) for all of the children to have contact with each other.

Best wishes

Suzie

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