The judgment in YXA v Wolverhampton City Council  is significant for several reasons.
The Supreme Court in CN & GN -v- Poole Borough Council  (“Poole”) held that a Local Authority will not ordinarily owe a duty of care to a child simply by virtue of exercising its child protection functions.
Since then the courts have declined to find that:
In fact, whilst case law suggests that where in principle sections 47 and 31 of the Children Act 1989 might give rise to an assumption of responsibility, there have been no cases that assist litigants in understanding when this would occur.
We have been instructed on behalf of the Defendant in the case of YXA -v- Wolverhampton City Council .
YXA is a severely disabled man, who suffers from epilepsy, learning difficulties and autistic spectrum disorder. YXA and his family moved to the Defendant’s area in August 2007. The Defendant’s first involvement with the family was in September 2007. In March 2008, a Paediatrician expressed concern about YXA’s father over medicating him and recommended that YXA was placed into care. From April 2008 onwards, the Local Authority provided regular respite care for YXA. He was accommodated one night every two weeks and one weekend every 2 months pursuant to section 20 Children’s Act 1989. His parents retained parental responsibility for YXA. The Local Authority did not acquire it.
In 2008, there were additional concerns about the family, which included the mother’s alcohol and cannabis consumption, physical chastisement and further reports of excessive medication being given to YXA by his parents. In 2009, there were yet more problems, including YXA being admitted to hospital for seizures, which was thought to be caused by over medication. Towards the end of the year, YXA’s parents’ relationship broke down and YXA was placed into emergency respite care. In December 2009, YXA’s mother admitted that YXA’s father shouted and hit YXA and she administered diazepam. YXA was initially accommodated by the Local Authority under section 20 Children’s Act 1989. A Care Order was granted in March 2011.
In respect of the short placements into respite care, the Claimant’s Counsel argued that:
The first instance Judge concluded that:
The Judge struck out the common law claim, but not the parallel Human Rights Act Claim.
The Claimant’s team appealed the decision on the following grounds:
The appeal was heard on 7 July 2021 with the Appeal in HXA -v- Surrey County Council. The Honourable Justice Stacey concluded that:
The Claimant’s appeal was dismissed.
This Judgment is significant for several reasons:
Law firm Browne Jacobson has collaborated with Wiltshire Council and Christ Church Business School on the launch event of The Council Company Best Practice and Innovation Network, a platform which brings together academic experts and senior local authority leaders, allowing them to share best practice in relation to council companies.
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Welcome to our September edition of Public Matters, our monthly round-up of legal updates, news and insights for the public sector.
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On 31 August 2022, the Court of Appeal handed down the Judgment in respect of the appeal case of HXA v Surrey County Council and YXA v Wolverhampton City Council .
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