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Somerset Judgment

LondonDadsToBe2 March 17, 2022 11:24

Folks - just checking in if others have been impacted by the uncertainly around the Somerset judgement that came out in November.

We were on our path to matching panel this month, but it's now been deferred twice - first from early March to late March, and then to mid April. I just have no confidence now that they will be able to make the mid April date. And I don't know if SWs are just stringing us along.

As I understand it, the issue is that our prospective LOs placement order was made with the ADM reviewing raw medical reports, rather than a summary by the agency medical adviser as required by law. In practice, there is almost no argument that the ADM should have made a different decision (our prospective LO's need for a placement order was not linked to any medical issues). But I get the feeling that his LA are running around like headless chickens trying to figure out how to make it right.

I've read that the courts have asked LAs not to apply to Courts for declarations that placement orders were made correctly even if they followed the wrong procedure - because that would result in a massive flooding of cases. But we're now in a limbo of waiting for guidance to issue (meant to be in 'early March' but our LA now not expecting it for at least another two weeks) before they know how to proceed.

There is also some leeway though where they can apply for a Court declaration in some circumstances, including if a potential match is at risk. So we're not sure whether to say that the delay is causing us to think again* about the match in the hope that it might cause the LA to pull the finger out and try and get this sorted so we can crack on with matching panel and transitions?

*this would be true to an extent - we really don't want to lose this LO, but if there is the potential for it to drag on for months and months, we may need to rethink whether we have the resilience for it, and whether we'd be happy with his new age on placement etc. So it wouldn't be a lie to say that a lengthy delay would put the match at risk.

Newtothis March 17, 2022 19:30

Hi, We had 3 court adoption hearings as the parents contested, the last hearing was in January where the judge granted the adoption order. Whilst waiting the 21-28 days after the order for it to be finalised the order was stopped because of the Somerset ruling. We are now in waiting for the new guidance. I personally can't see them dragging it out.much longer and hopefully things will start moving again in April.

Edited 17/03/2022
LondonDadsToBe2 March 18, 2022 11:18

Thanks Newtothis.

I can't quite decide if it's better to be in your situation or ours. On the one hand, I imagine having brought your LO home, you must be so eager to get the AO through and make it all official. And there must be quite a lot of anxiety around any delays?

But I am struggling a bit with not knowing how long all of this might run for, and how much our prospective LO might have changed since we met him for a bump into you meeting a few months ago. It sort of feels like our life has been put on hold for a long time, and not sure how much longer we can cope we not being able to use annual leave (keeping it for transitions etc), saying no to friends weddings (because they might be just after placement), not planning holidays or days out or even theatre trips.

I know this is a bit of a whinge and it is (rightly) about the interests of the child. But I am also angry at the LAs who allowed this to arise by not just following the legal requirements in the first place! Mainly need to vent I guess...

AlisonAUK March 21, 2022 12:50

Hi, it's an incredibly difficult and painful situation to be in, for everyone concerned. The legal advice is to wait until the President of the Family Division of the courts has considered the Somerset issue (and the other potential cases) and produced further guidance for agencies to follow. That's due to happen this month. Read more here:

Charley and Kylie March 29, 2022 18:38

Our matching panel was due to take place on 13th April, and we have just been informed today that it has now been postponed. Really disappointed, frustrated and emotionally drained. We're really struggling to understand the scale of the issue, and to be honest, don't fully even understand what the issue is! The way it has been explained to us is that the medicals are non-compliant because they weren't done face to face due to covid, but from what little I have found to read about, it doesn't seem to necessarily be a covid-related issue. The medical assessments have been endorsed by a Paediatrician, and fortunately there really aren't any concerns. But the response from the panel has been that they refuse to consider the application because the CPRs aren't valid. Really would like to understand what the issue is better. At the end of the day, it feels like a technicality with paperwork - and the knock on effect is huge...

AlisonAUK March 30, 2022 08:00

These are very difficult times for all those caught up in the implications of the Somerset Judgment. We're holding a second webinar for those who are affected or think they might be affected, attended by a solicitor who specialises in birth families and adopters. Thurs 14th April at 11am and open to all.

Please note that though this url implies the page is just for members, some of the webinars, including this one, are open to all.

Charley and Kylie March 30, 2022 09:06

Thank you for signposting us to that webinar Alison. Do you have any more information why a decision has not been made (or announced) yet - everything I've read suggested it was expected in March?

LondonDadsToBe2 March 30, 2022 10:41

To be brutally honest, it feels like many SWs aren't massively familiar with the judgment or what it really means. Ours haven't really been able to give any answers when we've probed them on what their 'Plan B' might be if the guidance keeps getting delayed.

As I understand it, the judgment had nothing to do with Covid as such. As far as I can tell, the ADM is supposed to have a medical summary, written by the agency's medical adviser, available to them when they make a decision to apply for a placement order. In Somerset (and a lot of other places) ADMs were making decisions by just looking at the medical records of the child, rather than a summary by the medical adviser.

That wasn't compliant with the legal requirements, and so the whole decision to apply for the placement order is flawed.

The good thing here is that the Court in the Somerset judgment recognised that even if the process is flawed, that doesn't mean the decision is necessarily wrong or should be overturned. They said that if the decision would have been the same even if the correct process had been followed, then the original placement order can stand. The problem is that although they looked at the 10 placement orders the judgment was about and found that they were valid, they didn't say anything about how other affected placement orders should be judged.

Obviously the courts don't want 100's of cases where local authorities have to apply asking them to confirm that a placement order made under the wrong process are valid - there are already backlogs in the courts and that would add to it. So I am hoping that when the guidance comes from the Family Courts, it says something like - ADMs should review their decisions and consider a proper summary medical report as they were originally required to, and if they are satisfied that nothing in the summary would have changed their decision, they can proceed with adoption plans, including matching, without having to get a new court order. That may be wishful thinking, so let's see.

Familylife April 2, 2022 07:33

I doubt there will be any Guidance any time soon and we are certainly going to explore the option next week of the Corambaaf advice as we have been waiting a year and not any further forward. I can imagine and have heard from legal professionals that the President of Family Services takes his time (over months) to make judgements:

If applications for placement orders have been made, local authorities may apply to withdraw the application, re-make the decision that a child should be placed for adoption and re-issue the application to avoid delay. Alternatively, they may wish to wait for the judgment in March.

LondonDadsToBe2 April 3, 2022 21:03

We’re talking to our LO’s new SW this week. It’s just frustrating that they don’t seem to have any plan B at all, even if we were at risk of walking away.

I know one LA near us has adopted a risk based approach and are going ahead with matching panels where they think there is a very low risk of the original placement order being overturned.

And I know other LAs have proposed foster to adopt placements for some children while they wait for things to work themselves out.

And I know the family courts have previously said LAs could make an application to the courts to declare that the original placement order is valid if there’s a risk a potential placement falls through.

But the LA of the LO we’ve been linked with isn’t considering any of these options - all they’re willing to do is wait for the guidance. Which feels so wrong.

Charley and Kylie April 3, 2022 22:07

I’m really hoping a decision is made soon to override all this angst. It’s not fair on prospective parents, let alone the LOs.

Our LOs SW is changing too - another disruption in the midst of this. We’re hoping the agency are receptive to the Early Permanence option and will be pursuing that this week 🤞🏻

Thinking of you all at this challenging time :(

John & Brian April 5, 2022 13:21

We’re also affected by the Somerset judgement - we had a court hearing for our adoption order to be granted and on the day were told our case had been adjourned due to Somerset. This was the first we heard about it. Our SWs don’t have any news for us - just that we have to wait until there is a judgement.

We’re also not clear why some agencies across the country continue to proceed with matching and adoption orders while others aren’t. We were first told by our SW that this was nationwide but we this isn’t the case.

It’s so frustrating for everyone affected and there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight.

AlisonAUK April 6, 2022 10:27

Don't forget to register for AUK's free webinar about the Somerset judgment on 14th April, open to all:

LondonDadsToBe2 April 6, 2022 13:17

It seems to be affecting only some children within LAs. Our prospective LO's local authority said they have about 10 children affected and it's a pretty large LA.

Our meeting yesterday was not terribly reassuring. SW said because they have not had guidance yet they are now starting to consider Plan B. I have to say, it became a pretty frosty meeting because we were bowled over that they are only now starting to consider Plan B options - this has been going on for a couple of months, and we've been asking them what their Plan B is for weeks.

Only starting those discussions internally now seems like a massive dereliction of duty.

Ebearplus April 14, 2022 10:07
AlisonAUK April 29, 2022 16:08

Hi everyone - here's some updated info from AUK and Emily Boardman, who's one of our trustees and a family solicitor:


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