Statement on Judicial Review, 15 December 2015

NAFP took the option of Judicial Review in respect of local authority placement policies for children in care with a heavy heart, more so given the huge pressures that local authorities are facing. We could not sit by and see some children in care miss out on what is best for them.

We are very disappointed with the verdict that has been published today. It cannot be right that some children will continue to miss out on the foster placement that can best meet their needs. By enabling local authority services to continue to ignore some better options with independent and voluntary sector fostering providers, we believe that the law is letting children down.

Historically, many local authorities have stated that the perceived higher costs of external placements are the reason for their 'in-house' first preference. Our analysis in the course of the Judicial Review clearly showed that the local authorities do not have the evidence to make this statement - they do not compare like-for-like services and their own calculations are flawed. Furthermore, they do not link spending with outcomes in any kind of reliable way.

The judge has taken a view in his verdict that the 'most appropriate placement' means no more than which type of care placement is chosen, rather than the specific placement which meets an individual child's needs best. Neither NAFP, nor the Local Government Association (LGA), nor the local authorities agreed with this view. This must call into question how the law has been drafted. It has to be the case that the Children Act is about getting what is best for children, but it seems it may not have been written in a way that reflects that. We hope the Secretary of State for Education will reflect on this and act accordingly to address this as soon as possible.

NAFP will take some time to reflect on best way forward for this particular campaign, but we remain convinced that local authority processes for placing children in care in foster placements are letting some children down and we will always campaign to put that right.

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Nationwide Association Of Fostering Providers, R (on the application of) v Bristol City Council & Ors [2015] EWHC 3615 (Admin) (15 December 2015)