Social Welfare Lawyers in the Centre of Birmingham

R(J) -v- Worcestershire CC & ECHR

R(J) -v- Worcestershire CC & ECHR [2013] EWHC 3845 (Admin)

The first paragraph of this judgment of Holman J is memorable:

Everyone loves a funfair. They are part of the tapestry of our national life.

But there would be no funfairs without the travelling families who own the rides and amusements, erect them, man them, and then take them on to the next site or pitch. This case concerns one such family, but all counsel agree and submit that the issue which arises is one of widespread and general importance to all local authorities and many travelling or itinerant families.

Later, Holman J stated (at para 9):

It must be a hard life and a hard working one, but it is a good life and an honourable one, which brings fun and joy to many people. And it is the life of the family’s culture and choosing.

J had Down’s syndrome. His father and mother travelled with a fair. They were based in Worcestershire but travelled around the country outside of the winter months. J’s father owned a helter skelter and a bungee trampoline. The family argued that Worcestershire County Council (WCC) had the power to provide services for J even when they were outside the area of WCC. WCC said that they did not have that power.

The relevant provision is Children Act 1989 s17(1) which states:

It shall be the general duty of every local authority…
(a) To safeguard and promote the welfare of children within their area who are in need; and…
(b) …
By providing a range and level of services appropriate to those children’s needs.

Holman J concluded that ( at para 55):

…under section 17(1) of  the Children Act 1989, pursuant to assessment of the claimant’s needs made at times  when he is actually present in their area, the Worcestershire County Council do have the power, for so long as he remains a child who is a child in need, to provide a range and level of services appropriate to his needs both inside and outside their area, and at times when the claimant is not physically within their area …(judge’s emphasis).

This is a very important decision not only for Travelling Showpeople families but for all Gypsies and Travellers.