In certain circumstances the Local Authority might request that parents, or any other person with Parental Responsibility for a child, sign an agreement called a Section 20 Agreement. This could happen if, for example, the child is beyond parental control, if the Local Authority want to safeguard the child by placing them outside of the family or in advance of the Local Authority taking the matter to court to formally address the child’s placement.
Section 20 of the Children Act 1989 provides for a child being accommodated by the Local Authority when there is agreement to this arrangement by those people with Parental Responsibility for the child.
The child becomes a ‘Looked After Child under a Section 20 Agreement. However, before the child becomes accommodated the Local Authority must obtain consent from those with Parental Responsibility for the child and a Section 20 Agreement is not valid unless the parent giving consent to the accommodation has the capacity to do so.
The consent must also be properly informed and obtained fairly by the Local Authority who should recommend the parent take independent legal advice before signing the Agreement.
Section 20 Accommodation is predominantly used as a short term measure to manage a child’s placement and the Local Authority should not use Section 20 to delay in issuing care proceedings or otherwise formally addressing the child’s placement.
When a parent signs Section 20 they retain Parental Responsibility for the child and the Local Authority are not granted Parental Responsibility as a result of a parent signing a Section 20 Agreement. A parent can also end the Section 20 Agreement should they wish to by revoking their consent to the placement.
In the event that you are asked to sign a Section 20 Agreement it is always important to contact a solicitor beforehand. Our team at Bromley’s are here to help and would urge you to make contact with us should you ever be approached by the Local Authority to sign a Section 20 Agreement.