Emergency measures in the family courts silence children’s voices, says Nagalro
Association for children's guardians publishes critique of changes in family court services
Emergency measures introduced to deal with backlogs and delays following an unprecedented rise in the number of child protection proceedings are posing new risks for already highly vulnerable children. That is the conclusion of Time for Children, a report published last week by Nagalro, the association for children’s guardians, children and family reporters, and independent social workers.
The report analyses the impact of recent changes in family court services on children across the country. The survey is based on the responses of children’s guardians all of whom carry out work for Cafcass.
The report raises concerns that the changes are damaging the effectiveness of a key service for children, and that Cafcass is failing to make the most cost effective use of the available professional and financial resources.
The principal findings of the report are:
* The voice of the child in care proceedings is being lost – over 80% of those who responded told Nagalro that they were now being instructed to prioritise tasks other than the core work which they want to do with and for the child.
* The duty systems set up by Cafcass to deal with backlogs have resulted in managers instructing frontline staff to undertake an arms-length, paper exercise of risk assessment where the child is often not seen.
* 40% of the 496 cases reported on were unallocated for over two months when they should have had a children’s guardian within 48 hours. Poor workforce management meant that 70% of the self-employed workforce who responded had spare capacity to take on new cases but were not being used, whilst the employed staff were being overloaded with work.
Ann Haigh, Chair of Nagalro, said:
"This report tells a sad story of skilled and experienced frontline staff demoralised by excessive bureaucracy and oppressive management.
“The confused messages from Cafcass about what constitutes a ‘safe minimum service’ can lead to potentially dangerous practice. Nagalro believes that there are more constructive alternative approaches to making the best use of the resources available. We hope this report will make a positive contribution to the review of the family justice system announced by the government this week.”
The NAGALRO website can be found at: www.nagalro.com
To read more about the latest figures on care applications and the response to them of Cafcass and the LGA, click here.