Religion, looked-after children and “best interests”: Salford CC

Salford CC v W & Ors (Religion and Declaration of Looked After Status) [2021] EWHC 61 (Fam) was about the welfare of five children between the ages of eleven and four:  B, C, D, E and F. There were three applications before the court: the first for care orders under s.31 of the Children Act 1989, first issued in December 2018 by Norfolk County Council, the second by their mother, Ms W, for a prohibited steps order pursuant to s. 8 of the Children Act 1989, and the third by the maternal aunt and putative special guardian of the children, Mrs Z, for a declaration under the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court regarding the children’s legal status for the purposes of Part III of the Children Act 1989 [1 & 2]. It is the second application that is the subject of this note.

All parties were agreed that the placement with Mrs Z and her husband Mr Y should continue and that the children should be placed under a special guardianship order in favour of Mrs Z and Mr Y: the children were thriving in their care and there were no safeguarding concerns about the placement [16]. However, Mrs Z, a devout Roman Catholic, wished to involve the children in her faith [17] and their mother sought an order prohibiting Mrs Z from giving effect to her stated intention of having each of the children baptised and confirmed as Roman Catholics. Continue reading