How to contact us for advice

Find out more

Telephone Handler
Close form

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.

Telephone Handler

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.

Discuss on our forums

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.

Family Rights Group
Cover Your Tracks
Generic filters
Exact matches only

Will a parent or carer know where their child is living? Can they remove their child from the voluntary arrangement? What if children’s services are worried about the child being removed?

Children’s services have a duty to share with the parents (and others) with parental responsibility) where a child who is looked after in a voluntary arrangement is living (see schedule 2, paragraph 15 of the Children Act 1989). There is no exception to this duty.

A parent or carer may be able to remove a child from a voluntary arrangement, but this will depend on the specific situation and some exceptions do apply.

This is all set out step by step below:

  1. It is important to first be clear about whether the parent or carer has parental responsibility for a child. There is some helpful information and ‘quick facts’ about parental responsibility at the end of this page. This may be helpful for anyone who is unsure about what parental responsibility is or who has it for their child
  2. If a parent or carer with parental responsibility for the child objects to the voluntary arrangement continuing, they can remove their child at any time. But they can only do this if they can:
    • Provide the child with a place to liveor can
    • Arrange a place for the child to stay and be cared for
  1. Even then there are two further exceptions. If one of these exceptions the parent or carer will still not be able to remove their child from the arrangement. These are the exceptions:

Exception one:

  • There is a child arrangements order or special guardianship order in place and
  • The person who has that order does not agree to the child being removed from the voluntary arrangement (see section 20 (9) of the Children Act 1989)

Exception two:

  1. If a parent or carer with parental responsibility is in a position to remove their child (because neither of the exceptions apply) then they:
  • Should very clearly (‘unequivocally’) tell children’s services they want their child to be returned to their care
  • Do not need to put this in writing
  • Can remove their child at any time. No notice is required and no restrictions should put on their right to remove their child
  • Can ask for the immediate return of their child. Or may ask for return at a fixed time.
    See the case of Williams & Anor v LB Hackney [2018] UKSC 37 at paragraphs 37 and 44

But it is always a good idea for parents or carers to discuss their plans with children’s services before carrying them out.

What if children’s services are worried about the child being removed from the voluntary arrangement?

If children’s services are worried and they think what is planned means the child is likely to suffer significant harm they should apply to the Family Court for an order to protect the child.

This could be an emergency protection order. Or an interim care order.

Children’s services must never force a parent into a voluntary arrangement being put in place or continuing. And they should never refuse to return a child. The Supreme Court made this clear (see Williams & Anor v LB Hackney [2018] UKSC 37 at paragraph 39).

Getting advice

If a parent or carer is thinking about removing their child from a voluntary arrangement and this is against the wishes of children’s services, it will be helpful to seek some independent legal advice first.

This could:

  • Be advice from a solicitor. To find a solicitor, search using the ‘how to find a solicitor’ function on the Law Society website. Look for someone who is a children law specialist. Or who has Children Law Accreditation. For information about finding a solicitor and working with them, please see our top tips guide Working with a solicitor. Free legal aid for advice from a solicitor in relation to voluntary arrangements may be limited unless care (or related) proceedings are ongoing
  • Include posting a question on our Parents Forum, to receive advice from one our expert advisers, or for further advice or in complex situations
  • Contacts us – call Family Rights Group’s specialist legal and practice advice line on 0808 801 0366 (the advice line is open Monday to Friday, from 9.30 am to 3 pm excluding bank holidays).

Parental responsibility – quick facts

  1. The law says parental responsibility is:
    ‘all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority, which by law a parent has in relation to the child…’. This is explained in section 1(3) of the Children Act 1989.
  2. A person who has parental responsibility can make important decisions about their child’s life.

This includes:

  • Providing a home for their child
  • Protecting and caring for their child
  • Agreeing to their child having medical or dental treatment.
  1. Mothers have parental responsibility from the time their child is born. Fathers may have, or may get, parental responsibility for their child depending on the situation. And kinship carers with a residence, child arrangements or special guardianship orders will have parental responsibility. Others may have parental responsibility for a child too.
  2. It is a good idea to open or download our Parental responsibility – quick facts table.
  • It includes advice about five important topics: who has parental responsibility, parental responsibility and decision-making, travel abroad, limiting parental responsibility and ending parental responsibility.
People pie chart

Our funding means we can currently only help 4 in 10 people

Your donation will help more families access expert legal advice and support from Family Rights Group.

Donate Now