Judge condemns ‘scandalous’ situation over vulnerable youngster ‘marooned’ in hospital

A High Court judge has raised concern about a shortage of suitable placements for vulnerable children after being told how a 12-year-old girl with severe learning difficulties had been “marooned” in hospital.

Mr Justice Mostyn said it was “extraordinary” that “this rich country” could not find a suitable placement for such a vulnerable youngster.

The judge was told the girl was admitted to hospital on January 13, for treatment to a cut, and has been “medically fit for discharge” since January 16.

Lawyers said she remained in hospital because the council staff responsible for her welfare have been unable to make “arrangements for her safe discharge”.

The judge was told that social workers thought she should be in a registered “therapeutic residential” placement but a suitable unit could not be found.

He heard that there was a national shortage of such units.

Council staff have “undertaken” around 2,000 placement searches, he was told.

The judge made no criticism of the council but described the situation the girl was in as “scandalous”.

Mr Justice Mostyn, who is based in London, raised concern when considering the girl’s case at a private online hearing in the Family Division of the High Court on Thursday.

He said the girl could not be identified in media reports of the case.

The girl is in the care of Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council (pictured). Cheshire and Merseyside Integrated Care Board has also been involved in the litigation.

The judge heard that the girl had been living with carers in a house rented by the council before going into hospital

That accommodation is no longer available and social workers plan to move her into another rented house.

A barrister representing the council said that house was being adapted to suit the girl’s needs.

The judge said he was concerned that she would not be able to mix with other children when living in a rented house with adult carers.

Mr Justice Mostyn said the girl was “marooned” in hospital and described the situation as “almost unbelievable”.

The judge said the hospital was being used as a “respite place” and raised concern that the girl might suffer psychological harm.

“It is completely scandalous,” he said. “A hospital is for very sick people.”

He added: “A hospital is the last place a fit 12-year-old should be.”

Lawyers representing the council, the care board and the girl said evidence showed that other children were in similar situations.

Debra Powell KC, who represented the care board, told the judge: “In my experience, this is not an isolated incident.”

Jade Abraham, who represented the child, said the problem was “commonplace”.

“Not only are there massive issues around funding,” she said. “There seems to be a real dearth of places.”

She said a registered “therapeutic residential” unit was the best option but no such unit was available.

Nadia Sarwar, who represented the council, said staff have undertaken “over 2,000 placement searches”.

“I cannot help but observe that this is an extraordinary situation,” said Mr Justice Mostyn.

“That this rich country cannot find a placement for this young girl. A child in such a vulnerable state… we are somehow not capable of meeting her needs.”

He said it was a “matter of concern nationally”.

“It should certainly be discussed in the council chambers of the local authority,” he added. “And possibly in Parliament itself.”

The girl’s mother told the judge that the youngster loved watching football.

She said her daughter supported Liverpool and Celtic.

She said she hoped the clubs might take an interest in her daughter.

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