A Section 20 Notice is not a Court Order. It is the Local Authority asking for your agreement to your child or children living somewhere else, often foster care but sometimes also with family or friends.
The Section 20 Notice does not give the Local Authority parental responsibility for your child,
Why am I being asked to sign a Section 20?
You need to ask the Social Worker for the reasons in your case, but Section 20 notices are often issued because they are worried about the safety of your child/children, or because they have specific needs that need to be met elsewhere (e.g. in a therapeutic or residential setting), or because you are no longer able to meet the needs of your child.
Do I need to sign the Section 20?
Section 20 is “voluntary accommodation” which means you do not have to sign it. However, it is important that you seek legal advice by calling a solicitor, to understand your options. If the Local Authority are very concerned about your child, they may have to consider other options such as issuing Court proceedings or temporarily police protecting your child.
When considering whether or not to sign the Section 20 Notice, you should also ask the Social Worker/Local Authority to clearly set out the level of contact that they are suggesting that you would have with your child whilst they are out of your care. You also should ask how long they are wanting to accommodate your child for.
If you do sign the Section 20 notice, you should ask for written confirmation of this and for the plan for you and your family moving forward.
How long should a Section 20 last for?
There is no set time for a Section 20. Sometimes you will be asked to sign Section 20 alongside PLO (Public Law Outline) or Child Protection Plans. It is often considered to be a temporary measure, unless in limited circumstances when all parties agree it is in the best interest of your child. This is subject to there being proper consideration of the purpose of the accommodation and there being regular mandatory reviews being completed (Re S (A Child) and Re W (A Child) (s20 Accommodation)  EWCA Civ I )
Can I remove my consent to Section 20?
Yes, you can remove your consent to Section 20 at any time. However, if the Local Authority have significant concerns then this may mean that they will have no choice but to issue urgent Court proceedings or seek police protection of your children.
If your child is over 16, they are able to choose to continue with the Section 20 even if you disagree.
If both parents, or more than one person with parental responsibility, have signed the Section 20, it only takes one person to remove their consent.
In removing your Section 20, you can do this verbally but it is usually more mindful to do this in writing – by email, text or letter.
Can I get Legal Aid?
Legal Aid is automatically available to all people with parental responsibility, when care proceedings are issued. This is also the case if you are sent a pre-proceedings or PLO letter by the Local Authority.
If you are unsure as to your rights, please call us on 08000 320999 and speak to one of our solicitors who specialises in this area of work.