We represented the child ‘FL’ through his Guardian. FL was 18 months old at the conclusion of the proceedings.
The concerns centred on the mother’s history of mental health issues and misuse of alcohol. The mother’s inability to address these issues and suffered a number of relapses whilst residing at a mother and baby psychiatric unit with FL. This is what ultimately led to FL’s removal. FL’s mother was subsequently assessed as being unable to care for FL long term and assessments of alternative family members commenced.
The local authority (LA) initially assessed the maternal grandmother, who on balance, was assessed negatively. The grandmother sought an ISW assessment which was positive, however the Guardian had concerns as to the quality of the assessment and sought for further gaps to be addressed by way of an addendum assessment.
The addendum did not adequately address the issues and therefore a further ISW assessment was deemed to be necessary on the Guardian’s application and independent social worker Julia Hughes was instructed. Her conclusion was that the grandmother would not be able to care for FL long term. It transpired that there was information that grandmother was less than candid about which caused further concern as well.
At the final hearing the LA continued to seek a care and placement order. This was supported by the Guardian who considered that the grandmother would not be able to meet FL’s needs long term and that there was a risk that he would suffer emotional harm in her care.
Whilst the judge was critical of the first ISW assessment, he ultimately agreed with the assessment that the grandmother was able to care for the child and rejected the evidence of the social worker, the Guardian, and ISW that this was too risky for the child. This was particularly due to the grandmother and her daughter having a difficult relationship; the grandmother underestimated the risks posed by her daughter to FL and whilst she could provide good enough care on a short term basis this may not be sustainable long term especially in relation to his emotional needs.
The judge however made a Special Guardianship Order in favour of grandmother. The LA did not seek to appeal the decision and despite the Guardian’s concerns that the judge had failed to sufficiently analyse the evidence and conducted a linear rather than a holistic approach.
Unfortunately the Guardian had been unaware of the details of the transition plan and therefore a stay of execution of the Special Guardianship Order was necessary pending the appeal as FL was due to transition to his grandmother’s care the next day.
We were able to obtain the stay and permission to appeal however the appeal was subsequently dismissed as the Court of Appeal considered that the judge had adequately evaluated the relevant evidence and had considered the evidence of the grandmother and mother to assist with the evaluation.
Whilst unsuccessful this case further considered the cases of Re B (A Child)  UKSC 33, acknowledging that grandmother’s care was ‘good enough’ and that this was a matter in which adoption could not be considered as it was not a case in which ‘nothing else would do’.
FL was represented via his children’s Guardian by child care director Sophie Fretten, instructing Giles Bain of New Court Chambers.