UCL Faculty of Laws


UCL iLAC challenges the DfE’s COVID-19 guidance for children’s social care services

8 April 2020

The guidance, which is aimed at local authorities, relates to providing children’s social care services during the COVID-19 pandemic


The UCL Integrated Legal Advice Clinic (UCL iLAC), have sent a letter to the Government, pursuant to the pre-action protocol for judicial review asking them to withdraw the recent guidance issued by the Department for Education relating to children’s social care services during the coronavirus pandemic. This guidance, issued on 03 April 2020 allows local authorities to depart from the usual statutory duties owed by children’s social services. Relaxing these duties in the midst of a pandemic where the most vulnerable are likely to need even more social services support risks the welfare of a large number of children and vulnerable young people.

Rachel Knowles, Senior Teaching Fellow and Head of Legal Practice at UCL iLAC has been instructed on behalf of two individuals, one a care leaver facing imminent homelessness and the other a child with autism and significant learning difficulties who relies on social care support provided by a local authority.

The guidance is being challenged on the basis that it is permitting and encouraging unlawful acts because it allows local authorities not to comply with their statutory duties without any legal basis for this. Further, it breaches elements of the Equality Act 2010 as well as failing to consider the best interests of the children affected by the guidance.

The Government has been asked to withdraw the Guidance immediately and ensure that any new guidance published is lawful.

In drafting this pre-action protocol letter, Rachel and the Clinic have received invaluable advice from Steve Broach of 39 Essex Chambers. Rachel was also supported by several UCL Laws students who assisted with reviewing existing social services guidance.