Who we help: Client case studies
Read how our legal practice team has helped these young people to find a safe, secure future:
Please note: The names may have been changed to protect the identity of the young people concerned.
Kelly Ann, aged 17
Kelly Ann was kicked out of home at 16, left vulnerable and homeless in north-west London. The Council helped find her housing with family friends initially, but she was never told she had a legal right to be looked after by the local authority. After various temporary placements, Kelly Ann eventually moved to Coram Supported Housing where she has lived ever since.
Despite recognising Kelly Ann as a ‘child in need’, the local authority refused to accept their duty to accommodate her. Without this acceptance, Kelly Ann would not have been entitled to leaving care support once she turned 18 – this is vital financial and other practical support for looked-after children, and gives them priority on council housing waiting lists and personalised help to lead independent lives.
The legal practice unit made a retrospective claim on Kelly Ann’s behalf, and won, arguing that the local authority had failed in its duty under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989 to provide her with accommodation.
Kelly Ann is now studying at college, and hopes to become a midwife.
She said: "The work Coram Children's Legal Centre does is amazing - I don’t know where I’d be without this help. My solicitor gave me a lot of good advice, she was really quick and got straight in there – I got my section 20 in a couple of months. She was friendly, positive and nice to talk to, I felt very confident telling her what I wanted, and she sent letters to explain the process. She broke it down so I could understand."
Sophie, aged 18
Sophie suffers from mental health problems and is in care.
After settling in happily with her foster carers, she missed a year of school when she was admitted to a mental health institution. When she returned to her foster family and wanted to finish her education, the local authority told her that once she turned 18, she would either have to move to more independent accommodation, or she could remain with her current foster carers, but without funding from the Council.
The foster carers felt unable to provide adequately for Sophie without this funding, and they faced the dilemma of returning to work or moving to a larger property to take on more foster children to make up the shortfall. This would cut the time they could spend with Sophie helping her to develop independent living skills.
The legal practice unit argued that there is no legal requirement to stop support at 18 to a foster child, and the local authority made an out-of-court settlement to the foster carers enabling Sophie to remain with them and complete her education.
Sophie’s foster mother was delighted by the outcome and wrote to thank our solicitor:
“My husband and I would just like to say how much we appreciate what you have done for Sophie. She is a lot happier now and progressing even further in her studies, receiving distinctions for all her work. Many thanks for all your hard work.”
Morgan, aged 14
Morgan has Asperger’s syndrome, and was deeply unhappy at his local school where he was constantly bullied, and making no progress in his learning despite one-to-one support. It got so bad that he used to come home from school and shut himself in a wooden toybox, and aged 11, he told his parents he didn’t want to carry on living if he had to stay at that school.
His parents wanted Morgan to go to a special school, but when they met fierce resistance from the local authority and his school, who said his needs could be met in a mainstream school, they turned to Coram Children’s Legal Centre for help, and the legal practice unit took the case on.
“CCLC provided us with a rudder to steer through the legal minefield,” said Morgan’s mother. “Without that help, I doubt we’d have been successful.”
Building up their case with carefully crafted letters to schools, evidence of the school’s collusion with the local authority to misrepresent Morgan’s educational needs, and an updated specialist medical report from a child psychologist, the legal practice unit were able to persuade the local authority that Morgan needed to be educated in a residential special school where he could receive a ‘waking day curriculum’ including learning to understand his emotions, read facial expressions, socialise and other everyday tasks, with specialist staff on hand day and night.
Morgan is now at a special boarding school where he has never been happier.
“Every day feels like we’ve won the lottery!” said Morgan's mother. “We are so excited and incredibly grateful to the school and all who helped to get him there. His anxiety levels have plummeted and he is now engaging in lessons and making excellent progress. He is getting involved in so many different activities - guitar, cycling, the gym, football, tennis, swimming - he even came sixth in the national Warhammer finals. We can honestly say that we have never seen Morgan more happy, thoughtful, fulfilled and, importantly to him, popular!”
Anna, aged 17
Anna was 16 and five-months pregnant when she was referred to the CCLC. Born in Jamaica, she had arrived in the UK aged six with her mother as tourists. They over-stayed their visa and Anna did not know what her immigration status was except that her mother had made an application in 2011.
The pregnancy caused problems between Anna and her mother, who threw her out on the street. Anna approached her local children's services department for help but she was told she wasn't entitled to any assistance because of her uncertain immigration status.
Anna was living on food vouchers and hardship payments from her college and camping on a friend’s sofa until she had to leave when the friend was rehoused in a smaller property.
The legal practice unit gave Anna advice regarding the local authority duties towards her; explaining that, despite her immigration status, she was clearly a child in need. The solicitor wrote a letter before action to the local authority's legal department threatening court proceedings and as a result Anna was assessed by children's services and housing was identified for her.
Joy, aged 16
Joy was trafficked into England from Nigeria when she was five-years-old, and kept as a domestic slave for 10 years. She didn't know her birth family, never went to school, wasn't registered with a GP and was given limited access to the outside world.
Her early memories were of neglect and forced domestic drudgery with the family she was sold to. She was made to sleep on the floor and do all the childcare, cleaning and cooking. The only time she was allowed to leave the house was to collect the children from nursery, attend church and help with the shopping. She was regularly beaten when her work did not meet the required standard, but she was too scared to escape in case the police caught her and sent her back to Nigeria.
Eventually, she escaped and slept rough until she was taken into foster care. However, the local authority disputed her age, as she did not have any documents to prove her date of birth, and a dental assessment suggested she was three years older than her claimed age. The legal practice unit took up Joy's case, and the High Court agreed that she had been 16 at the time of the age assessment. So, aged 18, she was given a firm financial footing with local authority funding, to help her find housing and study childcare at college.
Joy said: "I am so pleased that something has finally worked out for me, with the help of the Children's Legal Centre."