Parental Responsibility

Random, random little bit of information that you might need to be aware of as youth workers. Until 2003 (in England and Wales, later in the other home nations) a child born outside of marriage had, in legal terms, only the mother as their responsible parent. So fathers who weren’t married to the mother wouldn’t have any parental responsibilities for the child, unless they apply for it in court, or get married to the mother later. I think this works out slightly differently when it comes to custody and all that stuff, but it means that sometimes the dad cannot give full consent to medical treatment. If a child was born after 2003 then both their parents will have parental responsibility, married or not.

All this is a bit odd, and worth bearing in mind when you get consent forms done, but the whole consent form thing is a bit odd when it comes to medical treatment, as anyone who is looking after the child (presumably with the parent’s knowledge) can do “what is reasonable in all the circumstances of the case for the purpose of safeguarding or promoting the child’s welfare”[1]. Sometimes I wonder if every form we do should be filed under “saving our asses” as opposed to “legally required”. In short, when getting parental consent forms, the mother is the winner if the parents are unmarried and certainly getting her contact details as well as the dad’s are fairly important, but I wouldn’t stress about it too much.

1 The British Medical Association Website has a lot more details on this , but from very much a doctor’s perspective.