LH & MH v Lambeth London Borough Council [2006] EWHC 1190 (Admin)

The mother and child applied for judicial review of a decision to offer care at home, instead of a residential placement. The decision was informed by the view that moving the child to a boarding school equipped and ready to meet his needs would be detrimental and a last resort.

The court criticised this approach, saying that an assessment was distinct from the production of the care plan, in the light of the assessed needs. The care plan had been, effectively, merely a summary of what had already been included in the assessment. This had contributed to the failure to identify the needs of the mother, the carer, whose main issue was the need to regain control of the child’s behaviour and set boundaries. The core assessment and care plan even when taken together were deficient in identifying clearly what was required to meet the needs. The need for a package of care at home, much of which had still to be identified, was seriously flawed and irrational, so the authority was in breach of its duty under Part IV of the Children’s Act 1989.

Commentary: this case is interesting in relation to what the assessment duty entails, in general, for local authority staff, albeit in the children’s sector: the case says that an assessment of needs is not the same as a care plan. A care plan, to count as such, has to identify what will meet need, not just be a turning round of the needs, and saying that what is needed is whatever meets those needs so that the outcome is that they are met.

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