South Gloucestershire Council v DN [2022] EWCOP 35

The court considered (1) an application on behalf of DN for welfare orders under the Mental Capacity Act 2005, and (2) an application by the local authority for orders authorising DN’s deprivation of liberty in an unregulated placement.

DN is 17 years old with a diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder, severe learning difficulties, and Tourette’s Syndrome. He has significant communication difficulties and complex sensory and behaviour needs. He has been a resident at an independent school in the West Country since February 2019 with the consent of his parents.

DN had made considerable progress at the school however there were incidents in March and May 2022 when he became aggressive and attacked members of staff leaving them with significant injuries. The school subsequently gave six weeks’ notice (as provided for in the contract) that his placement should come to an end by 8th July 2022.

The local authority searched for another placement for DN but were unable to find anything suitable. They sourced an agency who could provide trained staff, round the clock, to care for and supervise DN in a property on the premises of the school, however the school would not agree to extend the placement as it would put their OFSTED registration at risk, as the placement itself would be unregistered and unregulated within a registered setting.

The only other option was for DN to move into a hotel or into his parents’ home, to be supervised and cared for by the agency workers. In a previous hearing, HHJ Wildblood had described this option as ‘wholly unworkable’.

Feelings were running very high amongst all parties during the urgent hearing before Mrs Justice Judd when, with no change in the position of any of the parties, a move to the parents’ home was reluctantly authorised, subject to the level of supervision set out in the care plan (which constituted a deprivation of DN’s liberty). Mrs Justice Judd described the solution as ‘very sub-optimal’ but noted that ‘at least he will have somewhere to live, and people to keep him physically safe’. It was hoped to be a temporary solution only and the matter was listed before a section 9 judge within two weeks to consider how the plan was working and what steps were under way to find something that will meet DN’s needs.

The full judgement can be read here

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