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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Care Proceedings Advice Lawyers London

The latest figures from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) have shown that there was an 7.9% increase in the total number of applications received between April and September 2012 over the same period last year. The total number of applications received during that period this year was 5,374.

Each month of this financial year has seen the highest ever number of applications recorded for that individual month, with the exception of June.

During May and July 2012 Cafcass received 982 applications each month, the highest figure ever recorded for a single month.

Commenting on new research from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) that claims that local authorities are acting more quickly to process care applications, Sue Kent, professional officer, British Association of Social Workers (BASW), said:

“It is welcome that Guardians feel local authorities are making more timely and appropriate interventions, and the fact that more serious neglect cases are being picked up is clearly vitally important for improving the life chances of vulnerable children. The rise in neglect cases reaching court perhaps could be seen as the impact of the ever worsening economic climate on many families who are struggling to cope.

“However, increasing demand must be matched by resources on the ground, to protect the integrity and professionalism of all children’s social workers, regardless of the field they work in. Although the child’s main professional relationship is with their local authority social worker, BASW members within Cafcass have previously reported that as children’s guardians, the restricted timescale, coupled with ever increasing workloads, often compromises their ability to practice ethically, as they have less time to develop relationships with children to represent their best interests in court cases, and ensure the local authority care plan is the right one for them.

“It is notable that the Cafcass report emphasises that family court work ‘does not detract from the importance of family support services to parents, aimed at preventing, as far as is possible, family breakdown and neglect’, since this area of work  – offering a genuine alternative to care proceedings is currently stretched beyond what is acceptable.

“This has to be a concern for the future, how are these families going be supported, and how will social workers cope with this ever increasing rise in their work while cuts to resources continue.”

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.

 

Ofsted has recently published a report into the causes of delay in the adoption system. The report find that the most significant cause of delay for children needing adoption is the length of time it takes for cases to be completed in court. The average time taken to complete care proceedings in the cases inspectors examined was almost 14 months.

Not intervening early enough, and cases being left to ‘drift’ prior to care proceedings, were also key factors that hindered successful adoption in the cases reviewed. The report found that some children had been known to children’s social care for a considerable length of time prior to care proceedings being initiated.

Typically, these cases were characterised by long-standing concerns about either neglect or emotional abuse, or both. Delays jeopardised good outcomes for children. The children were older when they entered care, and their life experiences had resulted in some significant behavioural challenges for potential adopters.

The report also found many good examples of practice where local authorities worked to minimise delays. Overall, there was good parallel planning when children were taken into care or about to be placed for adoption. Most of the cases tracked showed a clear commitment to early planning for adoption at the same time as rehabilitation was being pursued. This ensured that if children could not go back to their birth family then the process for adoption was already in place.

Of those adopters that were interviewed, the majority were happy with the overall service that they received. Most did not feel that they had experienced significant delay, although nearly all considered that there had been some kind of delay, however minor. Nearly all adopters felt they had received a welcoming and sensitive response when they first enquired about adoption, and that assessment was necessarily thorough.

The report found that processes for matching children with adoptive placements were generally robust and of the authorities surveyed, there was little evidence of delay caused by an unrealistic search for a ‘perfect’ ethnic match.