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Involving children’s guardians in vulnerable families may avoid the need for care proceedings according to a pilot study from Lancaster University and the University of Bradford.

Stage One of the pilot identified a number of benefits in regard to the Children’s Guardian becoming involved in pre-proceedings.

Applications to take children into care are at record levels, with 10,199 new applications recorded during the last year by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service.

In addition, the family courts report extensive delays for children, with case duration now hitting 60 weeks in many cases.

The pilot study, listed in the Family Justice Review and Government response to that review, examined whether earlier involvement of the Children’s Guardian might ensure more cases are prevented from going to court, or where cases go to court, that they are resolved more quickly.

Researchers are following care proceedings in a sample of 27 cases and 30 comparator cases. Stage One has identified positive impacts in regard to the engagement of parents in a number of cases, with some cases now successfully diverted from court. In other cases, discussions between the local authority and the guardian may have narrowed the issues which will come before the court if care proceedings are issued.

The report from the pilot project will go to the Ministry of Justice and the project will now be extended to Liverpool.