What is a Section 20 Notice?
Section 20 refers to a passage within The Children Act 1989. It details how a child should be taken care of by the local authority in the event of abandonment or the parents becoming unable to care for the child.
If Children’s Services issue a Section 20 Notice, it means that they want you to agree to your child/children living elsewhere for a period of time. This will often be a foster care placement, which means that your child is being looked after by the local authority, a family member or a friend.
A Section 20 Notice is not a Court Order. There is no involvement from the Courts at this stage. It is voluntary and contingent on the parents’ consent.
Signing a Section 20 Agreement does not give the Local Authority Parental Responsibility over your child/children.
Do I have to sign a Section 20 Agreement?
No, you do not have to sign a Section 20 Agreement. If you are being asked to do so, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible, to ensure you fully understand the terms and implications of what you are signing and what the plan is for your child/children. Our experienced Child Law Solicitors are happy to advise you on this.
What happens next?
Once a Section 20 Agreement is signed, there should be regular review meetings with Children's Services. There should be a Child Review Meeting usually within one month, then another one in three months, and then another in six months’ time.
What happens if I refuse to sign the Section 20 Agreement?
If you refuse to sign the S.20 Agreement, but Children’s Services don’t want your child/children to remain at home with you, they have the following options available to them:
- Liaise with the police to obtain a Police Protection Order, which allows the local authority to accommodate the child for up to 72 hours.
- Apply to the Court for an Emergency Protection Order. This lasts up to seven days.
- Apply to the Court for an Interim Care Order.
Can I withdraw my consent to Section 20?
Yes, although this is best done in writing and with advice from a Child Law Solicitor.
If you withdraw your consent, but the Local Authority doesn’t agree to your child/children returning to your care, they may decide to take matters to court and issue care proceedings. You should seek legal advice straight away.Download PDF:
Section 20 Agreement Guidance for Parents and Professionals