Sunday 23 October 2016

Couple with mental health difficulties lose fight over care of son (4)

Published 18/01/2016 | 11:30

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A couple with mental health difficulties who found themselves at the centre of a legal aid controversy have lost a fight over the care of their four-year-old son.

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Social workers had concerns about the couple's ability to safely look after the little boy - who has "complex" special needs - and a family court judge has ruled that he should be placed for adoption.

Sir James Munby, the President of the Family Division of the High Court and the most senior family court judge in England and Wales, said the case was the "most difficult and unusual" care case he had tried.

He said he could not "countenance social engineering" but said professionals involved in the case were "rightly concerned".

The judge has not identified the family at the centre of the case but said the local authority with responsibility for the youngster's welfare was Swindon Borough Council.

He has announced his decision on the boy's future in a written ruling following a hearing at a family court in Swindon, Wiltshire.

Sir James had earlier raised concerns after the couple had struggled to get legal aid to fund their fight.

He had said they could have been forgiven for thinking that they were ''trapped'' in a system which was ''neither compassionate nor even humane''.

The boy's mother had been assessed as being on the "borderline of a mild learning disability" and his father had a "more significant cognitive impairment", said Sir James.

A psychological assessment had concluded that the boy's father lacked the mental capacity to litigate.

He had "managed to function successfully in adult life with the help of social services staff and had worked in the same job for more than a decade", said Sir James.

Social workers said the boy had "additional needs" and required "more than good enough parenting".

They said his parents, because of their own "difficulties", were unable to meet his "specialist needs".

They also had "continuing concerns" about the couple's ability to "ensure" the little boy's safety.

The couple had argued that with the "right package" of support they could care for the little boy "safely and appropriately".

But Sir James concluded that there were "very real and very worrying concerns".

The judge said the weight of professional opinion was "compelling in identifying and evidencing" why social services staff were "so concerned".

He said he had been "reluctantly and sadly" driven to the conclusion that the boy's welfare required adoption.

Press Association

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