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29 NOV 2010

LOCAL AUTHORITY: R (Bewry) v Norfolk County Council [2010] EWHC 2545 (Admin)

(Queen's Bench Division (Administrative Court); Holman J; 6 October 2010)

The children were sent on respite placements but formal fostering with the parent continued. The local authority decided at a meeting not to return the children to the foster parent's care. At issue was whether the local authority acted in breach of s 22(4) of Children Act 1989 in failing to find out views of the foster parent. 

The authority described a complete breakdown in relationship. The foster parent complained that this was in fact due to him having been a ‘whistleblower' in respect of the treatment of an unaccompanied asylum seeking children. Applying R v Hereford and Worcester County Council ex p D [1992] 1 FLR, there was no general duty on a local authority to consult foster parents in every case in which it proposed to remove a child. However it was unclear if the duty to ascertain the wishes and feelings of ‘any other person whose wishes and feeling the authority consider to be relevant', under Children Act 1989, s 22(4)(d), applied to foster parents.

Parliament would have stated if automatic duty to consult foster parents, whereas they were not mentioned specifically. It was not clear as to whether the authority had in any way addressed the question as to whether the foster parent's wishes and feelings should be ascertained. In these circumstances the authority should have informed the foster parent that they were holding a meeting to consider whether or not to terminate the placement, giving him the opportunity to express their views. No reasonable authority could have considered that his views were other than relevant to the decision.


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