Section 20 of the Children Act – Voluntary Accommodation
A Section 20 Agreement is a voluntary agreement entered into between parents and the Local Authority usually as a response to an emergency situation. Parents should not be pressurised into consenting to the accommodation of their children and should be given the opportunity to seek legal advice. A parent should have full capacity to enter into the agreement and it should only be entered into when it is necessary for the safety of the child for them to temporarily be removed from their parents. The Local Authority must consider whether or not it would be fairer to issue court proceedings. Once a child has been accommodated under Section 20 of the Children Act the case should be kept under review by the Local Authority and there should be very clear planning for the child including assessments to be undertaken of the parents. Parents should be aware that they can withdraw their consent at any time but we would suggest that this is only considered after taking legal advice because the consequences are that the Local Authority would need to consider whether to take emergency action including court proceedings if they felt that the child was at risk of significant harm. You should therefore take legal advice both prior to entering into such an agreement and also when considering the termination of the agreement legal aid may be available to assist you.
Please contact our Family Law Department should you have any concerns in this area.