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Research highlights benefits of Independent Social Work Experts
New research from Oxford University has challenged concerns raised by the Family Justice Review that the use of independent social work (ISW) assessments can hinder family court proceedings by causing duplication and delay.
The research argues that far from detracting from the proposed programme of reform in family justice, ISWs could be of considerable assistance in helping Courts and parties to meet new targets, whilst maintaining the quality of assessments.
The findings to date demonstrate that:
- There was no evidence that ISW reports cause delay to court hearings.
- They produce high quality reports to deadlines.
- ISWs have “added value”: they are independent, highly skilled and experienced.
- They are child focused and successful in engaging parents with a history of non cooperation with local authorities.
- There was no evidence of routine duplication with a current local authority core assessment.
- Appointment of ISWs do not result solely from parents seeking second opinion evidence based on human rights claims.
- Parents were involved in most instructions but most were joint, involving the local authority and the child/children's guardian.
The Confederation of Independent Social Work Agencies, the British Association of Social Workers, Nagalro, the professional association for ISWs and Children's Guardians and many children's organisations are supporting the research. They believe that restricting access to ISWs will lead to poor decision making with more children being exposed to further risk of abuse or being removed unnecessarily from their families.
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