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What is a Section 20 agreement and when should you sign one?

If the Local Authority have concerns about a child in the care of their parent(s), then the Local Authority may wish to provide alternative accommodation for that child. Section 20 Children Act 1989 sets out how the Local Authority can provide accommodation to a child if their safety or welfare demands it.

A Section 20 agreement is voluntary. However, there may be situations where parents are, practically, left with little option other than to give their agreement when requested to do so, such as if the parents are involved with the police and bail conditions do not let a child live with them. Alternatively, if the parents are involved with the Public Law Outline process and it is felt that the parents need time away from the child(ren) to make the required changes, the parents may be strongly encouraged to provide agreement in order to avoid care proceedings being issued.

Under the Section 20 agreement, the Local Authority can accommodate children with family or friends or, the Local Authority could place the child in foster care if there are no other suitable placements for them.

A Section 20 agreement is a voluntary agreement and not a Court Order. Therefore, this type of agreement is often requested before Court proceedings are issued. However, if the Local Authority want to make further decisions in relation to the child or a Section 20 agreement is not given, then an application to the Court is likely to be made.

At any stage, parents can withdraw their agreement to Section 20. However, you should seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity.

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