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Is it time to discharge that Care Order?

Business people negotiating a contract.

What is a Care Order?

When a care order is made the local authority share parental responsibility (PR) with the parents. If needed the local authority can exercise its PR, above that of the parents, in order to protect the child.

How are Care Orders discharged?

The local authority, parents or the child can all apply to discharge Care Orders, but they must demonstrate a significant change in circumstances.

Very often it is the local authority who apply, and as a result the discharge is more likely to be granted.

As a parent whose children are subject of Care Orders, ask yourself: When was the last time the need for the care order was properly reviewed? Should you be making an application for discharge rather than waiting for the local authority to catch up with what is happening with your family now?

North/South Divide

Whether a Care Order needs to be discharged now needs to be considered in light of a recent decision of the Court of Appeal.

In Re: JW (Child at Home under a Care Order) [2023] EWCA Civ 944 the Court of Appeal found that it was wrong to make a care order for a child living at home unless the circumstances were exceptional, particularly if the support provided under supervision orders would have been the same.

Unlike a Care Order, a Supervision Order does not give the local authority parental responsibility for the child. It gives a duty to the local authority to ‘advise, assist and befriend’ the child.

The President of the Family Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane, noted that there appeared to be something of a north/south divide when granting either Care or Supervision Orders.

Care Orders with children at home were much more common in the northern regions. He proposes that practice should stop. The courts will now need much more persuasion that a Care Order is necessary if a Supervision Order provides enough support for the child.

So if the courts are reviewing whether a Care Order for a child at home is the right order, then the question needs to be asked for those existing orders and parents need to know if those orders should now be discharged.