Re X (A Child) (Placement application: LIFT assessment) [2022] EWFC 117

Nkumbe Ekaney KC and Sharan Bhachu, instructed by Taylor Rose MW, acted for the mother in care proceedings before HHJ Lazarus.

The mother had a diagnosis of moderate Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder and a mild learning disability. X was her 8th child and X’s older siblings had all previously been removed from the mother’s care. In contrast to the last set of proceedings, which concluded in 2020, the mother demonstrated significant progress and improvement in terms of her presentation, behaviour and mental health, including her willingness to work with professionals and engage with appropriate therapy and support. At final hearing, the court endorsed the agreed care plan for X to remain in the mother’s care subject to a 12-month Supervision Order. 

In her judgment, HHJ Lazarus criticised an expert assessment of the mother undertaken by the London Infant Family Team (LIFT) as part of the BeST? Randomised Controlled Trial research exercise (approved in 2019 for incorporation into appropriate care proceedings in a specific geographical area by the President of the Family Division). She concluded that the assessment process was fundamentally flawed and could not be relied upon. Reasons for this included, inter alia: the narrow approach, inadequate methodology, failure to consider all the available evidence, and the assignment of the bulk of the complex assessment to a comparatively inexperienced social worker. HHJ Lazarus referred the case to his Family Division Liaison judge so that appropriate steps could be taken to remind those conducting LIFT assessments and the BeST? Trial of their obligations as court-instructed experts. 

Full Judgment

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