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Adoption and fostering agency’s recruitment policy found to violate the Equality Act and the Human Rights Act for requiring carer applicants to be heterosexual

R (Cornerstone (North East) Adoption and Fostering Service Ltd v Ofsted [2020] EWHC 1679 (Admin)

Related Member(s):
Sarah Hannett, Aidan O’Neill QC (Scot) QC, Ben Silverstone
Related Practice Area(s):
Human Rights, Public Law
Court:

This case concerned whether it is lawful for an adoption and fostering agency only to accept heterosexual evangelical Christians as the potential carers of fostered children. Cornerstone (North East) Adoption and Fostering Service Ltd sought to judicially review a report by Ofsted, which found its carer recruitment policy to be in violation of equality and human rights laws and required it to change the policy.

Cornerstone operates as an independent fostering agency and is founded on, and operates according to, its perception of evangelical Christian principles. In practice, the only potential carers Cornerstone accepts are evangelical married heterosexual couples of the opposite sex.

The Court held, inter alia, that Cornerstone’s recruitment policy was unlawfully discriminatory in breach of s 29(1) of the EA 2010, alternatively, s 29(6), in both cases read with s 13 and/or s 19, insofar as it requires applicants to refrain from ‘homosexual behaviour’. The policy unlawfully discriminates, directly or indirectly, against gay men and lesbians. The disapplication of the general exemption in [2(3)] of Sch 23 provided by [2(10)] applies because Cornerstone performs functions on behalf of public authorities pursuant to contract.

Cornerstone’s recruitment policy was held to violate Article 14 of the Convention read with Article 8 insofar as it required carer applicants to be heterosexual. Its policy unlawfully discriminated against gay men and lesbians.

Aidan O’Neill QC, Sarah Hannett and Ben Silverstone were involved in this case.