Frank Feehan QC and Francesca Conn successfully appealed against full care order and placement orders on behalf of a profoundly deaf parent. The Court of Appeal judgment provides guidelines for cases involving a deaf parent. For a full case summary and the Court of Appeal judgment, click here.
This appeal concerned a young child whose father is disabled by reason of profound deafness and who communicates via British Sign Language (BSL). The local authority had failed to make adequate provision for BSL interpretation in pre and early proceedings, notably not providing an interpreter when they sought s20 consent and instead seeking to rely on the mother to provide interpretation.
The Court of Appeal judgment explains the importance of understanding both the process of such communication and the impact of deafness on a person’s understanding; a deaf relay (intermediary) may be required. Careful consideration should be given to ensuring that any assessment of the deaf parent is appropriate and fair in light of the disability. The courts should not be driven by the 26 week timetable if the disabilities of one or more parents require a longer timeframe to ensure an effective and meaningful assessment.
Not only did the failures in this case result in a successful appeal (with the consequent delayed outcome for the child), the Court of Appeal judgment also serves as a reminder that all organs of the state (including the local authority and CAFCASS) are subject to Equality Act 2010 legislation and therefore owe particular duties to disabled service users/disabled parents.