Friday, 16 December 2011


I sometimes wonder whether people like John Hemming MP are talking about the same child protection system that I know.

The BBC reports that Hemming told the House of Commons Education Select Committee that the threshold for taking children into care is too low.

It’s a good idea just to remind ourselves what the law in England says. The Children Act 1989, Section 31 (2) states:
A court may only make a care order or supervision order if it is satisfied—
(a) that the child concerned is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm; and (b) that the harm, or likelihood of harm, is attributable to—(i) the care given to the child, or likely to be given to him if the order were not made, not being what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give to him; or (ii) the child’s being beyond parental control.
Section 31 (9) of the Act defines ‘harm’ as ill-treatment or the impairment of health or development.

In many cases coming before the court the ‘significant harm’ will have already occurred and the question the court must address is whether or not it will reoccur if the child is allowed to remain with her or his parents. Where ‘significant harm’ has not already occurred the court may be faced with a more complex decision, but such cases usually occur where a parent has already harmed another child.

I am at a bit of a loss to see how this threshold could be raised. If it were it seems likely to result in situations in which some children, who are facing significant harm attributable to the care they receive from their parents, and which results in ill-treatment and the impairment of their health and development, are beyond the help of the courts. Surely John Hemming does not want that?