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Defended: Children's Rights in Care

More than 60 organisations and several hundred care experienced people, social workers and others in children’s social care successfully defended the rights of children in care.

Article 39 launched the legal challenge after the government removed and watered down 65 safeguards for children in care in England, through The Adoption and Children (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 (known as Statutory Instrument 445). Parliament was given no time to debate the changes; the Regulations were introduced on 23 April and came into force the very next day.

In a judgment given  on 24 November, the Court of Appeal unanimously declared that the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, acted unlawfully in failing to consult the Children’s Commissioner for England and other children’s rights organisations before making “substantial and wide-ranging” [79] changes to legal protections for England’s 78,000 children in care.

Carolyne Willow, Article 39’s Director, said:

“I am hugely relieved and overjoyed that the Court of Appeal has confirmed that children and young people, and the organisations who represent their rights and interests, must be consulted when the government is considering changes to their legal rights and protections. This should draw to a close backroom, secret government consultations which exclude the rights, views and experiences of children and young people. As Lord Justice Baker has so powerfully communicated, it was precisely this perspective which the Secretary of State needed before embarking on any legislative change.

“The government’s actions were shameful, both in the scale of the protections they took away from very vulnerable children in England and the way they went about it. Many hundreds of care experienced people, social workers, children’s lawyers and others working in social care could see straightaway what was so dangerous about these changes. But it was too late by then; they had already come into force and Ministers refused to budge.

“We are extremely grateful to our brilliant legal team who worked at speed throughout the first lockdown and with utter devotion to the children and young people at the heart of this case. As a very small charity, this challenge would not have been possible without hundreds of kind donations from very committed individuals and organisations. This has definitely been a huge team effort. Today we celebrate children’s rights and the vital importance of judicial review in holding government to account for its obligations to children and young people.”

Read Article 39's statement in full at: