When it comes to promoting the welfare of troubled children, money is, quite rightly, no object. In a case on point, the High Court commended a local authority for its willingness to spend more than £490,000 a year on a deeply disturbed boy’s placement in a specialist children’s home.
The pre-teenager’s parents were decent people who had a heartfelt desire to do their best for him. Their relationship had, however, fractured under the emotional strain of attempting to cope with his extreme behaviour. They agreed to his removal from their care by the local authority and, after two earlier placements failed, he was moved to the children’s home.
There he received 24-hour supervision by a team of professionals and an intense programme of therapy and education in classes of four pupils. The placement cost £494,000 a year, the equivalent of the average base salary of more than 16 social workers. Other costs incurred by the local authority included funding the mother’s weekly stays in a hotel so that she could visit her son.
The local authority sought a care order in respect of the boy and the renewal of a deprivation of liberty order that enabled him to be kept at the home in conditions of some security. His parents, however, were critical of some aspects of the care he received at the home and wanted him to return to his mother’s care. The boy had also expressed a wish to go home.
Granting the orders sought, however, the Court noted that the boy had experienced turmoil and disruption for most of his life. His isolated mother was living alone, in poor accommodation, and returning him to her care was not a realistic option. In all probability, she would still be unable to cope with him and their lives would again descend into chaos. His behaviour was containable at the home. He had largely settled there and had said some positive things about the facility.
The Court made sure that the aim of the local authority’s care plan was for the boy to return to live with his family as soon as that became compatible with his welfare. Directing a thorough review of the case in 18 months’ time, the Court noted that, during that period, his placement at the home would cost about £750,000.
In strongly commending social workers for all they had done for the boy, the Court noted that the local authority had injected considerable resources, time and commitment into trying to help him and his parents.
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