Section 20 of the Children Act 1989—local authority duties
Produced in partnership with Claire Cousin of Dodds Solicitors LLP
Section 20 of the Children Act 1989—local authority duties

The following Local Government practice note produced in partnership with Claire Cousin of Dodds Solicitors LLP provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Section 20 of the Children Act 1989—local authority duties
  • The duty under section 20 of the Children Act 1989
  • Difference in the duties under section 17 and section 20 of the Children Act 1989
  • Children the section 20 duty applies to
  • When a local authority should intervene
  • How to decide whether to provide accommodation
  • Challenges and issues
  • Objection and delegation of parental responsibility
  • Capacity and informed consent to delegation of parental responsibility
  • Human Rights Act challenges
  • More...

Please note the information in this Practice Note relates to the current law in England. The law in Wales in this area is covered by the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 and the related statutory instruments.

The duty under section 20 of the Children Act 1989

Section 20 of the Children Act 1989 (ChA 1989) imposes a duty on every local authority to provide accommodation to children identified as children in need resident in its area who appear to require accommodation. There are certain factors which will influence a local authority as to whether they shall provide accommodation or may provide accommodation.

A local authority will firstly need to identify children in need in its area. These are children who, without the provision of services:

  1. are unlikely to achieve or maintain or have the opportunity to do so, a reasonable standard of health or development

  2. their health or development is likely to be significantly impaired, or further impaired, or

  3. are disabled

The local authority then needs to consider whether this is a child in need in their area who requires accommodation.

If they do require accommodation under this section, they become 'looked after' by a local authority as soon as the duty under ChA 1989, s 20 arises regardless of whether this has been a period over 24 hours. The local authority has duties to all children

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