Section 20 of the Children Act 1989 is about the local authority’s duty to provide accommodation for any child in need in their area who needs somewhere to live because there isn’t anyone who has parental responsibility for him or the person who has been caring for him cannot provide suitable accommodation anymore, for whatever reason. .
It is a very important section with regard to care proceedings because often a local authority will ask parents to enter into ‘section 20 agreements’ which will mean children can be removed from their parents’ care without the need for court proceedings.
Problems have arisen when parents feel they have been ‘rushed’ or even bullied into making a decision to agree to let their children be accommodated under section 20. Parents must give valid consent to section 20 accommodation and every social worker obtaining a parent’s consent is under a personal duty to be satisfied that this consent is valid.
Coventry City Council v CA (A Baby)  where Hedley J gave guidance on situations where a LA seeks to remove a child immediately or soon after birth.
The local authority can ask parents to contribute towards the costs of accommodation – but it seems this power is very little used; see this blog post from seuesspiciousminds.