Legal

Judge pleads for 'scandal' of children’s care to be wider known



A High Court judge has insisted that the public should know about what he called the ‘scandal’ of children’s care placements in North Wales.

In a ruling regarding arrangements for a 14-year-old, His Honour Judge Gareth Jones pleaded for local authorities to work together and finance a residential placement for children with nowhere else to go.

He said such an initiative would prevent the need to place children out of the local area, the weekly costs of which ‘dwarf the expense of public education’.

‘It is not ultimately my responsibility to make those arrangements,’ said the judge. ‘I am part of the judiciary. I am not part of the public administration so far as government is concerned, but I make this plea as an individual judge who has been responsible for many cases involving the care of children in North Wales for many years. The current situation is unsatisfactory. It needs to be resolved as swiftly as possible.’

The court heard that the child had been placed in the south-east of England because of a lack of provision in North Wales, following an interim order allowing for the child to be deprived of her liberty. Since the breakdown of that arrangement, she has been placed in three different bed and breakfast accommodations and her current placement is entirely unregistered.

The judge said that the situation in Wales ‘escapes appropriate media and other scrutiny’ by politicians in the Senedd because the jurisdiction is smaller than England. But in England the lack of residential placements had been a ‘scandal for some time’ and raised by the president of the Family Division. The judge said the lack of scrutiny in Wales means local authorities are ‘getting away’ with a situation which needs changing.

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He directed that a transcript of the judgment be made available to the director of Cafcass Cymru and to the children’s commissioner. He urged the parents to make it available to their local Senedd member and have it raised at a government level, even if this might result in the local authority being publicly identified.

The judge added: ‘So far as the Family Court is concerned, I have nothing to fear from scrutiny. I have no desire to operate in a situation where the public is ignorant of what is going on so far as North Wales is concerned.

‘It is other public authorities who largely adopt defensive positions in that regard. The Family Court has no interest whatsoever in maintaining secrecy to prevent what is a generally appreciated to be a scandal from being made more generally known.’



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