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Our advice service

We provide advice to parents, grandparents, relatives, friends and kinship carers who are involved with children’s services in England or need their help. We can help you understand processes and options when social workers or courts are making decisions about your child’s welfare.

Our advice service is free, independent and confidential.

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By phone or email

To speak to an adviser, please call our free and confidential advice line 0808 801 0366 (Monday to Friday 9.30am to 3pm, excluding Bank Holidays). For Textphone dial 18001 followed by the advice line number. Or you can ask us a question via email using our advice enquiry form.

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Our online advice forums are an anonymous space where parents and kinship carers (also known as family and friends carers) can get legal and practical advice, build a support network and learn from other people’s experiences.

Advice on our website

Our get help and advice section describes the processes that you and your family are likely to go through, so that you know what to expect. Our webchat service can help you find the information and advice on our website which will help you understand the law and your rights.

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Who can object to a voluntary arrangement? What happens if family members disagree with each other about a voluntary arrangement?

What if a parent or carer with parental responsibility agrees to their child being in a voluntary arrangement:

  • They are ‘simply delegating’ their parental responsibility ‘for the time being’ to children’s services
  • This just means that the parent or carer does not use (‘exercise’) their parental responsibility to provide or arrange somewhere for their child to live
  • Instead, they are passing (delegating) that parental duty to children’s services
  • That does not mean children’s services have parental responsibility for the child
  • The parent’s (or carer’s) delegation must be ‘real and voluntary’. If it is not, then the arrangement may not be lawful (see paragraph 39 of the the Supreme Court case of Williams & Anor v London Borough of Hackney [2018] UKSC 37).

So, a voluntary arrangement can only happen if it based on a ‘real and voluntary’ decision and agreement by someone with parental responsibility to let children’s services be responsible for providing (or arranging) somewhere for their child to live.

But even then, it may be possible for someone else with parental responsibility to object to the voluntary arrangement.  The law explains who is able to object. This is all set out in sections 20(7) and 20(9) Children Act 1989). Not everyone is entitled to object.

The table below shows when someone else with parental responsibility is able to object to a voluntary arrangement. And when they cannot.

Here are some examples of what this all can mean:

  • If a father does not have parental responsibility, he cannot object to his child being in a voluntary arrangement
  • A child lives with their father who holds parental responsibility. He agrees to a voluntary arrangement. The mother (who will automatically have parental responsibility) can’t provide her child with somewhere to live and can’t arrange for her child to live with someone else. The mother cannot object to the voluntary arrangement going ahead
  • Two parents don’t want their child to be in a voluntary arrangement. The child’s grandmother has a special guardianship order. She does want the child to have a period in a voluntary arrangement. The parents cannot object to this.
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