Social Welfare Lawyers in the Centre of Birmingham

Worcestershire County Council -v- J (By His Litigation Friend W) and the Equality and Human Rights

Worcestershire County Council -v- J (By His Litigation Friend W) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission [2014] EWCA Civ 1518

Our report of the first instance judgment in this matter is at:- – TAT News E Bulletin No. 5.

J’s parents are Travelling Showpeople.  They are based in Worcestershire but travel elsewhere in the country between February and November each year.  They have a winter base at Malvern.  J suffers from Down’s Syndrome and is a “child in need” because of his disability.

An assessment was carried out by Worcestershire County Council and they recommended that J should receive funding for a nursery placement of 5 hours a week to enable his mother to have some respite and to allow her to spend time with her two other children.  The question in this case was whether that care should still be the responsibility of the County Council when J and his family were outside the Worcestershire area.

Children Act 1989 Section 17 provides as follows:-

(1)  It shall be the general duty of every local authority (in addition to the other duties imposed on them by this Part) –  (a) To safeguard and promote the welfare of children within their area who are in need;  b) So far as is consistent with that duty, to promote the upbringing of such children by their families, by providing a range and level of services appropriate to those children’s needs.

At first instance, Holman J had decided that the power of the County Council to provide those services continued even when the family were outside the Worcestershire area.  The County Council appealed against this decision but their appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeal.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission intervened in the matter.  Lady Justice King gave the leading Judgment of the Court of Appeal.  She concluded as follows:-

In my Judgment a purposive construction of s17 CA 1989 leads to only one result, namely that a local authority has the power to provide services for a child in need who they have assessed regardless of the circumstances which have led to that child being no longer physically present in the area of that local authority.