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City council slammed in High Court

“Deplorable” treatment of disabled boy attacked by judge

Published on August 2nd 2010.


City council slammed in High Court

Manchester City Council has been criticised by a High Court judge for taking a severely disabled teenager away from his foster mother and putting him into a care home.

“Serious concerns were raised about this young man's welfare and we had an obligation to act. While we strongly believe we did the right thing, the judge has made it clear that we went about it the wrong way.” Liz Bruce, Manchester City Council's director of adult services.

Mr Justice Baker said it was "deplorable" that the 19-year-old, who has a mental age of two, was taken from his foster home after many years while allegations against his carer were investigated.

The allegations later proved to be unfounded. He was removed from his foster mother's care in April last year. He had lived with her since 1995.

The decision was in breach of the teenager's human rights and mental health laws aimed to protect the rights of vulnerable people, said the judge.

He named Manchester City Council at the end of last week following the judgment on March 26. The teenager has since been reunited with his foster mother.

The judge attacked the council’s justification for its actions, namely that carers looking after adults were not allowed to physically restrain them.

However, the council's standard adult placement agreement states that physical restraint can be used by adult carers provided they have been given the requisite training.

The judge, referring to the teenager as E and his foster mother as F, said: "There was, in my judgment, a deplorable failure to take into account the close relationship between E and F, the need to sustain that relationship, and a consequent failure to arrange any contact for several months between this vulnerable young man and the person who had been his carer - his mother figure - for most of his life.

"I cannot understand how the social workers, and in particular the team manager, can have given evidence of the existence of a policy that would prevent the court placing E back with F when no such policy in fact existed."

He ruled the council breached the teenager's right to respect for privacy and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and his right not to be deprived of his liberty without legal authority under Article 5.

The council should have sought a court order before putting him into the care home, he said.

It also failed to abide by the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards required by the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

These aim to protect people who can't make their own decisions and ensure they are not deprived of their liberty without proper authority.

No blame attached to one social worker involved in the case, however. "The responsibility for the blatant errors that occurred in this case clearly lies higher up the line of management," he said.

Liz Bruce, Manchester City Council's director of adult services, said caring for vulnerable adults is a difficult job.

"Serious concerns were raised about this young man's welfare and we had an obligation to act.

"It was not an easy decision to keep E at the home where he was receiving respite care, but his welfare was our primary consideration.

"While we strongly believe we did the right thing, the judge has made it clear that we went about it the wrong way.

"We regret this and have now put in place measures so that, in future similar cases, we will follow the correct procedures."

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