Re B (Supervision Order)  EWFC B8
This case relates to ‘B’, who, at the time of the final hearing, was almost 10 months old. The Local Authority issued proceedings at B’s birth, and he was removed from his parents and placed in foster care, when he was only a few days old and discharged from hospital.
Both parents were reported to have a troubled past. The Mother had been diagnosed with Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder and was known to act on impulse . Mother was also seen to have a learning disability. The Father had suffered physical abuse in his own childhood, had not received support with his mental health, had used drugs in the past and struggled to manage his anger at times .
Following B’s removal from his parents’ care, the parents made good progress. Throughout the course of proceedings, a number of assessments were undertaken. This included a report by Dr Liverton, Dr Parsons and Dr Ratnam. All of these experts undertook assessments on both parents. Father also undertook an HST for cannabis, cocaine and opiates which was negative covering an 8-month period from March 2020 to November 2020.
A community-based parenting assessment was also completed by the Local Authority. This concluded that ‘there was some evidence that the parents could meet their child’s needs, but they would need help to do so’ . It also reported that the Mother found it difficult to meet B’s needs on her own and she should not provide care on her own, rather she is supported by a trusted adult .
By September 2020, it was considered that the parents had made real progress and B should be rehabilitated back to the care of his parents with paternal grandparents’ support (where the parents were living). The Guardian did not agree with the plan for rehabilitation, thought the risk was too high and considered that an assessment should take place in a residential unit (albeit no application was made for such assessment). At that stage, the Court then allowed B to transition back to his parents’ care, and the case was extended by 4 months to allow that to happen and support to be provided.
B’s transition to his parent’s care was a success. There was evidence that B’s care needs were being met by the parents, and Mother’s confidence was growing. An updating parenting assessment was completed in January 2021 and at that stage, B had been in the family home for around 2 months. The parents had made significant progress and the assessment recommended that B remained in the care of his parents, with professional support around them. On the basis of the parenting assessment, the Local Authority’s final care plan was for B to remain in his parents’ care and for there to be a supervision order in place for 1 year, with B to be placed under a Child Protection Plan. Under that plan, the parents would continue receiving support and undertaking work. The parents agreed to the plan.
The Guardian did not agree with the Local Authority’s final care plan. The Guardian’s opinion was that this case fell into the category of ‘extremely high risk’ and whilst there were positives, there were significant gaps in the evidence and in the assessments. She considered that no level of support would alleviate the risks and therefore, asked there be a further 6-month adjournment and further assessment take place. Despite her position, there was no application before the Court for any further assessment. Further, although not in her analysis, or raised previously, during the final hearing the Guardian also raised a concern about disguised compliance on behalf of the parents.
The Court did not agree with the Guardian’s analysis. The Court noted that this case had already gone past the 26-week timetable by 4 months and it needed to conclude. A further lengthy adjournment would serve no purpose . The Judge also accepted that the Local Authority had put together a ‘structured and robust plan to safeguard this child’ . He did recognise that the parents do still have work to do, however there was ‘solid evidence to conclude that the parents are both committed to continuing the necessary work’ .
The Court reminded themselves of Re D (Parenting with support)  EWFC 1 and how the Court must make sure parents with a learning disability are not at risk of having their parental responsibility terminated on the basis of evidence that would not hold up against parents without such difficulties . The Judge then went on to consider the totality of the evidence. There was no reason to disagree with the Local Authority’s evidence . Therefore, the Court endorsed the Local Authority’s plan.
What should also be noted is the simple way in which this judgment is written. Due to Mother’s difficulties and the recommendations of the experts, the Judge tried to use as simple words as possible so that the Mother could understand what was being said.
This case is another reminder of the importance of parenting with support as well as the principle of delay and the fine line between purposeful delay and a delay which serves no purpose.
The link to the judgment can be found here: https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWFC/OJ/2021/B8.html