A High Octane Conflict

A very welcome judgment of the High Court concerning a ‘high octane conflict’ between the parents of a profoundly disabled 12 year old boy and the professionals involved in his care and support arrangements.  It is a relatively brief judgment that deserves reading in full. 

The private care group commissioned by the local authority to provide the child’s care withdrew because of what it perceived to be combative interference by his parents with their staff.  Claiming (among other things) that they:

(i) insisted on having oversight of the training of carers at all times;

(ii) required the removal of two of the carers from their position on unreasonable grounds;

(iii) alleged, without proper foundation, serious misconduct by the paediatric nurse with oversight of [the child’s] care package and demanded her de-registration before their allegation had been investigated;

In relation to an episode of in-patient care, the parents’ behaviour was described by the hospital as ‘highly concerning’ and to be distrustful of the care staff who felt ‘undermined and belittled’.

The Court took the unusual step of seeking a ‘psychological assessment of both parents, in the hope of achieving a better understanding of some of their interactions with the professionals’. In the Court’s opinion this resulted in ‘a landmark report, the analysis of which requires wider dissemination’.  The report assessed the child’s mother to be a ‘balanced, thoughtful woman with considerable psychological resilience’ whose psychological state had deteriorated in consequence of her son’s ‘health needs and the demands placed on her, particularly as those needs had become more complex’. The report (by Dr Kate Hellin) concluded that the child’s mother’s anxiety was:

“rational” and based in the “cumulative reality of life-threatening medical events in [her son’s] life and the uncertainty of his condition and prognosis”.


The Court accepted the report’s conclusions that the mother’s response to the very challenging circumstances she faced was  “normal” – noting Dr Hellin findings, that she would expect “a similar response in even the most psychologically robust person”.  The judgment concludes that:

Rather than looking to change the parents, I recommend a systemic intervention drawn from organisational psychology, psychodynamic psychotherapy, group analysis and systems theory.


To access the full report – W (A Child), Re [2021] EWHC 2844 (Fam)  click here.

Posted 31 October 2021