RSS Feed

Tag Archives: last resort

Hamfisted analogy time!


Hello, good evening, and welcome to this first episode of TV’s newest gameshow “You’re going to get bitten by an animal – for money!” (c)

The rules are simple, we have three doors – A, B and C.  You choose a door. Behind each door is an animal, and you are going to get bitten by it. Then I am going to give you some money.  You don’t know how much money, the only thing you know is that the most money is for picking Door A, then the next highest is Door B and the lowest amount is Door C.  Now, it might be that the difference between Door A’s money and Door C’s is Fifty thousand pounds, or it might be fifty pence. You just don’t know.

The only rule is, that I will tell you what is behind Door A – you decide whether to choose that door, or reject it. If you reject it, we move on to Door B. It’s too late then to go back to Door A. If you have rejected Door A, and Door B, then and only then do you move on to Door C.  And you have to go through Door C and get bitten by that animal.  Door C is the last resort.


Okay, here we go !  Behind Door A is…..   A rottweiler

Are you going to choose Door A, or reject it and move on to Door B?  You don’t know what’s behind Door B – it might be better, it might be worse… that’s the gamble.


Assuming you’ve rejected Door A, we go on to Door B.  And behind Door B is….  a chimpanzee.

Are you going to choose Door B, or move on to Door C? The last resort door.  It could be anything – it could be a tortoise, it could be a hamster, it could be a grizzly bear.


And this is an example of why the Court of Appeal (notably McFarlane LJ  in Re G, and the President in Re B-S) have concluded that the linear decision-making model is flawed.  If one accepts that the test for Placement Orders is that they should be the ‘last resort’  (this being extrapolated by the Court of Appeal and Wall LJ in Re P, and expanded to ‘nothing else will do’ now – and it is the law, until either the Supreme Court, ECHR or some legislation say otherwise),  then you can’t just reject Door A (parents) and then Door B (extended family) and saythat Door C is the right option for the child and the last resort, just because its the only thing left.  As McFarlane rightly says, if you are going to proceed in a linear fashion and rule out options because they have deficiencies  and then go with whatever is left, you’d end up with the potential for the decision to have been different had you STARTED with Door C.

If, for example, Door C is the grizzly bear, suddenly that rottweiler behind Door A doesn’t seem that bad. You might well have picked Door A, had you known what was behind all three doors from the start.


In this example, you also only get to look at the disadvantages – what sort of animal it is that’s going to bite you, and not the advantages – the cash that’s on offer for being bitten. You need to see not only what the Disadvantage of picking each door would be, but also what the Advantage might be.  And you see that laid out clearly, for the range of options before you start deciding which to pick, Only then can you try to make any sort of rational choice.

So, whilst the decision in Re B-S that the social work final evidence has to lay out what’s behind every door – advantages AND disadvantages for each option and robustly analyse each, is going to be a huge culture shift and a massive pain in the neck to prepare, it’s one that makes a degree of sense, when you think about the exercise that’s involved.    {There are quite a few other things in Re B-S I have an issue with, and I’ll come back to those, but this one feels right, although it is making my life difficult at present}