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Can the Court of Protection authorise detention of an adult in a Children’s Home?

There is something of a rule of thumb that if a newspaper headline poses a question, the answer on reading the full article is invariably “No”   (as in  “Can a glass of red wine cure cancer?”  “Were Al-Qaida involved in Diana plot?”

 

Some good examples here

 

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/press/the-top-ten-questions-to-which-the-answer-is-no-8788687.html

 

This one though, is a question to which the answer (somewhat inexplicably to the naked eye) is  Yes

 

Liverpool City Council v SG 2014

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCOP/2014/10.html

 

In good, dramatic novelist style, Holman J gets stuck into it from the very off, and lets us know in paragraph 2 that this is not some mere dull Court of Protection case, but that something peculiar is about to happen, read on !

 

  • This case raises the following question:

 

 

Does the Court of Protection have power to make an order which authorises that a person who is not a child (ie who has attained the age of 18) may be deprived of his liberty in premises which are a children’s home as defined in section 1(2) of the Care Standards Act 2000 and are subject to the Children’s Homes Regulations 2001 (as amended)?

Both parties and their counsel in these proceedings submit that the answer is “yes”. I agree with them that the answer is “yes”.

 

We go on

 

 

  • I wish to stress at once the scope of that question which I have precisely drafted. This judgment and my answer to the question applies only in the case of a person who is not a child, that is, who has attained the age of 18. This judgment says nothing at all in relation to a person who has not attained the age of 18, and in particular to persons between the ages of 16 and 18. Further, this judgment is only concerned with a person in a children’s home, and says nothing at all with regard to a person who may be detained in a residential school.

 

 

 

  • I also wish to emphasise that both parties and their counsel who are before me in this case are agreed upon the answer to that question and the reasons for the answer. In other words, I have not heard any argument or submissions to the contrary. If, in some other case, on a future date, some party wishes to argue to the contrary, then of course that limitation or reservation upon the value of this ex tempore judgment as a precedent may be noted.

 

I have more of the average human allowance of curiosity to be sure, but my curiosity is piqued by this. It is sounding like some sort of trick question. Let’s go over it piece by piece.

 

The Court of Protection – dealing with a person who has reached the age of 18. Not a child.  They are in a children’s home though.  (we don’t yet know why). The Court of Protection is being asked to authorise their detention (we don’t yet know why). And being asked to authorise their detention in a children’s home (we don’t yet know why)

 

All of my instincts are screaming out at me that the answer to this must be no. Adults don’t get locked up in children’s homes. It just doesn’t happen. If the person is an adult, then the detention is either through the criminal justice system, the mental health act or an authorisation of deprivation of liberty under the Mental Capacity Act  – this one is the last of those, which is why it is in the Court of Protection. But the Court of Protection only deals with adults, so why has a children’s home been dragged into this?

 

I stopped reading the judgment at this point to see if I could guess why. Here’s my crack at WHY – this is a person who has huge problems, lacks capacity, and has been in a particular children’s home for many years, maybe six or seven years. They have only just turned 18 – their liberty has to be deprived, but they are doing so well in the particular children’s home that nobody wants to move them. So, in order to let them stay where they are, the Court has been asked to authorise detention of an adult in a children’s home.  Maybe I am wide of the mark, we shall see.  That’s a plausible-ish WHY, but I’m still baffled on the HOW element. How did the Court of Protection decide that this was lawful.

 

Let’s return to the judgment itself

 

  • The reason why the question has been posed appears to derive from two relatively recent developments. The first development is the recent decision of the Supreme Court in the Cheshire West case. The explanation given in that case by Baroness Hale of Richmond as to the scope or breadth of the concept of a deprivation of liberty has led to a concern that a significant number of people are, or may be, being deprived of their liberty who were not previously thought to have been. As is well known, this has led to a very large number of applications to the Court of Protection in order to seek authorisations for the deprivation of liberty.

 

 

 

  • The second development is a document headed “Deprivation of Liberty – Guidance for Providers of Children’s Homes and Residential Special Schools” dated 12th February 2014 and issued jointly by the President of the Court of Protection and the National Director Social Care OFSTED. It appears that as a result of that guidance document there has been, or is, uncertainty on the part of many lawyers and providers in this field as to the scope or extent of any power of the Court of Protection to authorise, when appropriate, the deprivation of liberty of certain categories of person who are accommodated in children’s homes or residential special schools. As the above defined question indicates, that concern has arisen in the present case, but I know that it is much more widespread as a result of the circumstances which I now describe.

 

 

{Absolutely – the Supreme Court’s decision in Cheshire West means that a range of people who were not thought to be having their liberty deprived actually ARE, and the President has heard a case but is yet to give judgment helping explain what the heck lawyers and Local Authorities and the Courts are going to do with the 10,000 extra cases that are believed to now be deprivation of liberty applications. Some of those cases might arise with young persons who are currently in children’s homes, but haven’t been the subject of Secure Accommodation Orders because they lack capacity to try to abscond

Treasury Solicitors said this ” These issues potentially affect a large number of children and young people who lack capacity but who currently reside in non-secure children’s homes or residential special schools. By way of example only, as at 31st March 2014, there were more than 6,500 over 16 year olds residing in care homes, children’s homes or residential special schools. The Secretary of State has not yet been able to determine the proportion of those 6,500 odd young people who may lack capacity.”    So at the moment, we don’t know how big a problem Cheshire West is for children}

 

Now, the facts of the case in question

 

 

  • It concerns a young woman, SG, who was born in early June 1995. Today she is in fact now 19. She was born in Romania and was apparently rapidly abandoned by her parents and taken to a state orphanage there. The first few years of her life appear to have lacked human affection and natural processes of bonding or attachment. When she was about 4 she was adopted by an English couple, who are, of course, now her parents.

 

 

 

  • As she grew older, it became increasingly plain that she suffers a number of lasting disabilities or disorders. She certainly has learning disability, a disinhibited attachment disorder, and quasi autism. Features of her condition have always been hypersensitivity to external stimuli, and challenging behaviour. More recently there has been a tragic history of self harm. Her childhood has, as a result, been very disrupted. She attended, but was removed from, various schools. She has had to spend long periods in hospitals. More recently she was placed in children’s homes. Challenging behaviour towards staff, absconding, damaging property, episodes of self harm and hitting out at her father have all been recorded.

 

 

 

  • For some time before she actually attained the age of 18 she was accommodated in a certain children’s home in the area and it is in those actual premises that she remains accommodated to this day. However, now that she has attained the age of 18 and is indeed now 19, it is completely recognised by the responsible local authority, in agreement with her parents, that arrangements must be made to enable her to move on to what is described as “supported living” in the community. This will take time to identify and set up, and, I have no doubt, considerable funding issues will need to be addressed. The local authority need to find a provider who will purchase or otherwise make available a suitable property and recruit a sufficient number of staff to care for her and keep her safe. The plan is that some premises will be found in which she can live together with a small number of other young women with similar needs. I have been told in the words of the skeleton argument on behalf of the local authority that:

 

 

“…one provider has already identified a suitable property and indicated a service could be in place for October 2014. It is hoped that securing a property will take no more than six to nine months after appointing the care agency, but it may be much quicker than that.”

As I understand it, it is contemplated that a high level of staffing and supervision will be required under that plan. If (as I assume is likely) it will involve a deprivation of liberty, then, in due course appropriate authorisations will be required.

 

  • Meantime, however, she has continued to live seamlessly in the children’s home where she was living before she attained the age of 18. There, too, she is the subject of very considerable staffing on a 3:1 basis. The staffing includes monitoring her while she is in the bathroom (ensuring her dignity is maintained at all times), locking the front door as a preventative measure, following, observing and monitoring her on visits into the community, and if she “attempts to leave the staff supporting her, they should follow several paces behind her and attempt to maintain conversation.” Items which may be used for self harm will be removed, and she remains supported 3:1 during the day and 2:1 during the night.

 

 

 

  • It is completely accepted by and on behalf of the local authority that that package of existing measures clearly amounts to a deprivation of her liberty as that concept has now been explained, in particular in paragraph 46 of the judgment of Baroness Hale of Richmond in the Cheshire West case, which I do not need to cite for the purposes of this judgment. Having appreciated in the light of the Cheshire West case that they currently do, and propose to continue to, deprive the patient of her liberty, the local authority commenced the present proceedings in the Court of Protection for appropriate authorisations.

 

 

 

 

Okay, I wasn’t that far wrong with my guesses – she is 19, has severe problems and has been in a children’s home doing as well as one could hope – she needs to be moved to another placement, and everyone involved wants her to stay in the children’s home until the RIGHT adult home can be found for her, rather than just moving her into any old adult home and potentially setting her back. That makes sense. But whereas before Cheshire West, professionals could ‘overlook’ that this was an 18 year old living in a children’s home, once the Supreme Court ruled that people like this were being deprived of their liberty, an application to authorise that had to be made.

 

Having done the WHY, we can now deal with the HOW.  But first, why is the HOW potentially difficult?

 

 

  • Section 121(1) of the Care Standards Act 2000, the interpretation section, defines that in that Act “child” means a person under the age of 18. Section 1(2) of that Act provides that: “An establishment is a children’s home… if it provides care and accommodation wholly or mainly for children.” The premises in which the patient in this case currently resides, and was residing before she attained the age of 18, is premises which have provided care and accommodation wholly or mainly for children in that there were at one time several children resident there. It is currently “registered” as a children’s home pursuant to the Care Standards Act 2000 and regulations made under it.

 

 

 

  • I have been told today that as a matter of fact no other person (apart from staff) currently resides in those premises apart from the patient. So, on one view, currently it is not providing care and accommodation even “mainly for children”, as no child resides there at all. However, all parties have proceeded on the basis that, notwithstanding the fact that currently no children reside there, it remains a children’s home for the purposes of the Act and the regulations, and I will proceed on that basis and assumption.

 

 

 

  • Assuming the premises to be a children’s home, the Children’s Homes Regulations 2001 SI [2001] No 3967 are in general terms engaged. Part III of those regulations is entitled “Conduct of Children’s Homes”. Chapter 1 of Part III is entitled “Welfare of Children”. Within Chapter 1, regulations 11 to 24 make a range of provisions with regard to the welfare of children, the food provided to children, communications with children, the protection of children, the behaviour, management and discipline of children, health needs, hazards and safety and other matters.

 

 

 

  • Of most relevance to the perceived problem in the present case is regulation 17A, which is entitled “Restraint”. Paragraph (1) provides as follows:

 

 

“(1) Subject to paragraph (2) a measure of restraint may only be used on a child accommodated in a children’s home for the purpose of-

(a) preventing injury to any person (including the child who is being restrained);

(b) preventing serious damage to the property of any person (including the child who is being restrained); and

(c) in the case of a child accommodated in a children’s home which is a secure children’s home, preventing the child from absconding from the home,

and then only where no alternative method of preventing the event specified in sub-paragraphs (a) to (c) is available.”

 

  • Just pausing there, whilst the regulation is prominent, it will be noted that throughout that part of that regulation the references are entirely to “a child”, that phrase being used five times in that short quotation.

 

 

 

  • The guidance that was issued on 12th February 2014 states at paragraph 3:

 

 

“3. The Court of Protection should be reminded by the parties of the regulations that apply to children’s homes and residential special schools. The Court of Protection does not have the jurisdiction to require any home or school to act in breach of such regulations or to authorise any such breach. Accordingly, the Court of Protection should not make an order authorising a plan for the care and supervision involving the detention of a person, where to do so would involve the children’s home or a residential special school breaching the regulations that apply to it. If compliance with an order of the Court of Protection would involve such a breach of the relevant Regulations it cannot be relied on to justify breach of the Regulations or enforced in a manner that would involve such a breach.”

 

  • Pausing there, that paragraph contains, if I may respectfully say so, no more than a legal truism. Regulations have the force of law, and no court, frankly, in any circumstances that I can readily think of, can authorise a person or body to act in a way that contravenes a regulation, or still less a statute, so as to be in breach of the regulation or statute. On a careful reading of that paragraph of the guidance, it ultimately says no more than that. The question, therefore, in any case is whether what the Court of Protection is otherwise being asked to authorise would amount to a “breach” of some regulation.

 

But one can see that the children’s home is authorised and approved to accommodate children, and in certain very narrow circumstances to restrict the liberty of children. The Act doesn’t give them as a children’s home, any right to restrain an adult or restrict the liberty of an adult.

 

 

  • he guidance continues at paragraph 4 as follows:

 

 

“4. All children’s homes must meet the Children’s Homes Regulations (2001). In this instance, the relevant regulations are:

Regulation 11 (Promotion of Welfare),

Regulation 17 (Behaviour, management and discipline) and

Regulation 17A (Restraint).

As restraint can only be used to prevent a child from leaving a secure children’s home, there is no purpose to be served in seeking an order of the Court of Protection authorising such restraint by a non-secure children’s home because the Court of Protection has no jurisdiction to order or authorise a breach of these regulations.”

 

  • Pausing there, it is possible (I put it no higher than that) that the accuracy of that part of the guidance is more debatable. It may beg the question of whether paragraph 17A(1)(c) of the regulations is a platform or a ceiling. But that is territory into which I simply should not and do not venture in the present case because paragraph 4 of the guidance is directed to “a child” and, as I have stressed, the patient in this case is not a child.

 

 

 

  • Finally, in a section that is avowedly headed “In Summary”, paragraph 13 of the guidance provides:

 

 

“13. Orders of the Court of Protection authorising a deprivation of liberty by non-secure children’s homes or residential special schools should not be sought or made and they should not be advanced or relied on to permit such homes and schools to act in breach of the regulations that apply to them.”

That, of course, is merely a summary, and the content of paragraph 13 is more fully elaborated in paragraphs 3 and 4 from which I have already quoted.

[The reason why this guidance is important is because it makes it plain – that might be too strong a description – it intends to make it plain – that the Court of Protection authorises deprivation of liberty for ADULTS, and the Family Court through s25 Children Act secure accommodation authorises the deprivation of liberty of CHILDREN. The idea is that the Court of Protection should not sidestep s25 Children Act – which has its own protections and safeguards by authorising the detention of children who lack capacity and using the Mental Capacity Act.  So, if SG was 17, the Court of Protection would not be able to tell the children’s home that it was okay to detain her.  And conversely, as she is 19, the Court of Protection can authorise her detention or restriction of her liberty under the MCA. But this person is betwixt. They are an adult in a children’s home. ]

The issue was, does all that guidance mean that the Court of Protection have to butt out (technical term there, but ‘accept that they have no jurisdiction’) for anyone whose liberty is being deprived in a children’s home, as para 13 says?  Or is it nonsense to suggest that para 13 applies to anyone other than CHILDREN?

Holman J takes the latter course, and now finally it all becomes clear (if by clear, you mean – gosh, my head hurts, I feel the need to lay down in a dark room and listen to soothing music)

  • The short and simple point is that the relevant parts of the Children’s Homes Regulations 2001 simply do not apply at all in the case of a person who is no longer a child. It may often happen, as it has happened in this case, that the premises in which a person, now adult, resides or is detained happen also to be a children’s home. But it frankly makes no difference whether the premises themselves are a children’s home or are some dedicated premises that have been provided in the community under the kind of “supported living model” contemplated for this very patient in this very case.

 

  • In my view, the Court of Protection has undoubted power in the present case to make, if appropriate, an order authorising the deprivation of liberty. Further, it is the duty of the person or body, in this case the local authority, who is or are depriving the patient of his liberty, to apply to the court for an authorisation; and, indeed, the duty of the court to make such authorisation as in its discretion and on the fact and in the circumstances of the case it considers appropriate.

 

  • In the present case it is common ground, and there is abundant evidence to support the proposition, that this patient lacks capacity to litigate and to make decisions as to her care and residence, and that it is in her best interests to continue for the time being to reside in the premises which are a children’s home in which she has been residing for some time, and that the deprivation of her liberty which is involved should be authorised.

 

  • So for those reasons I, myself, answer the question posed in paragraph 2 above as “yes”, and there will be an order which records that the court does consider that neither the Children’s Homes Regulations 2001 nor the joint guidance issued by the President of the Court of Protection and OFSTED dated 12th February 2014 prevent the Court of Protection from authorising under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 that a person who is an adult (viz. over the age of 18) may be deprived of his liberty in premises which are a children’s home. There will be appropriate declarations as to the lack of capacity and best interests of the patient and authorising the deprivation of her liberty; and I now transfer this matter back to the Court of Protection sitting in Liverpool where future decision making will be resumed after an appropriate interval by the local district judge there.

 

 

If you thought that the recent case about whether a former head of state had immunity after their death for marrying someone and not paying them any money was (a) complex and (b) a set of circumstances so recherche that they would never arise again if we lived and litigated until the sun ran out of fuel and the stars went out, then this one probably matches it.

 

It does show that the litigation fallout from Cheshire West is the gift that keeps on giving. There was a theory I read once that crossword puzzles were designed by an enemy of Britain, to soak up the brainpower of our most able people so that they would waste time on solving those rather than inventing things to help the War effort. The same may be true of Cheshire West – it may all be a cunning ruse by Baroness Hale to keep all Mental Capacity Act lawyers embroiled in solving what appear to be intractable problems and getting them all to take their eye off something far bigger and more significant.

 

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About suesspiciousminds

Law geek, local authority care hack, fascinated by words and quirky information; deeply committed to cheesecake and beer.

3 responses

  1. Ashamed to be British

    There was no need for a lengthy explanation – she’s the product of the ‘care’ system, it’s as simple as that

  2. forcedadoption

    Just suppose that the girl in question has capacity .I know of a case where a woman with two young children working as a senior compliance officer and earning £500/day was told by her barrister the first time she met her on a Friday ” I have read the reports of social workers and it is evident that as you have no capacity so the official solicitor will represent you on Monday!”Luckily I persuaded a top psychologist to see her on the Sunday who cleared her 100% to the fury of the judge who said she had not asked his permission (arrogant sod!) but after summoning the psy for rigorous examination by himself could not ignore the obvious fact that this lady was highly intelligent and that her only fault was a deep rooted dislike of the social worker and the guardian who were trying to find reasons to remove her kids !
    The answer to the problem when someone is genuinely crazy and a danger to themselves and others? The person concerned should ALWAYS have the right to choose their own psy to try and prove their capacity and should never be forced to rely on the “hired guns” selected by the local authority who are always dead set on winning their cases once started and do anything they can to win without regard to children,parents,or indeed those who they judged to have no capacity .

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