Under s34 (1) of the Children Act 1989 the Local Authority has a duty to promote reasonable contact between a child and their parents, guardian or anyone else who holds parental responsibility for the child during Public Law Children Proceedings unless it is not deemed safe to do so.
If the Local Authority believes that there is a risk to the child they must make an application to stop contact under s34 (4) of the Children Act 1989.
If you have been having contact with your child which has now stopped and a reasonable alternative has not been offered by the Local Authority, then you should seek legal advice in order to make an application to the court for contact with a child in care.
Direct Contact Supervised by a Family Member
The Government has recommended that you should only travel where necessary. However the ‘Stay at Home’ rules dated 23 March 2020 states that “where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ home”. This allows children to travel for the purpose of contact with their parent. It is important to note that children do not have to travel and a common sense approach must be used. If the child, the supervisor or you are showing any symptoms then contact must not go ahead. The individual should self-isolate for a period of fourteen days before contact can recommence.
Direct Contact Supervised by Professionals in a Contact Centre or the Community
Following Government guidance, contact centres are temporarily closed until further notice. As a result, it will not be possible to have direct contact at this time. The Local Authority should have offered indirect contact in the meantime by way of video call or telephone call which could be supervised by the individual who the child has been placed with.
Alternatively, you may be asked to write letters to the child. If you have not been offered alternative contact, you should contact the Social Worker to enquire as to the alternatives they are proposing. If no alternatives are proposed then the Local Authority should have made an application to prevent contact. If this has not happened then you should seek urgent legal advice to reinstate contact with your child.
Indirect contact should continue as normal. Examples of indirect contact include but are not limited to: letters, emails and video calls. If you have been advised not to leave the home during this time then you should speak with the Social Worker to discuss an alternative to posting letters. It may be possible for the Social Worker to collect your letter or to email a typed version to provide to your child. If indirect contact is being prevented for any reason then it is important to seek legal advice.
When seeking legal advice in relation to any of the above, it is important to act in a timely manner.
Author Sophie Rayment is a solicitor in the family and childcare department, she specialises in assisting with child care proceedings, acting for parents whose children have been removed from their care for a variety of reasons including drug abuse, physical abuse and poor home conditions. Sophie works under the supervision of director Natasha Khakhar.
Contact Sophie on 02070147388 or at email@example.com
Contact Natasha on 02070147385 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Duncan Lewis Family and Child Care Department
Duncan Lewis family and child care team continues to be recognised by Legal 500 for our large team which ‘covers a broad range of family cases and excels in children’s cases’. They applaud the department for its notable expertise in representing domestic abuse victims under legal aid and mediation, as well as its handling of public law and cross-border issues concerning children, and the team’s niche Sharia law expertise.
The team has extensive expertise representing vulnerable clients under legal aid, supporting families in care proceedings. Guardians appoint the team to represent children in culturally complex care cases given the firm’s diverse ethnic workforce and experience dealing with vulnerable clients in physical and emotional abuse, drug or alcohol misuse, neglect, factitious illness, rare illness and non-accidental injury matters.
For expert advice on any family and child care matter, please call 0333 772 0409.