Social workers may help psychiatrists

Social workers and guardians could be used as
experts in straightforward contact cases between parents and
children, freeing psychiatrists and psychologists to advise on more
complex cases including those involving domestic violence, Dame
Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, president of the family division, told a
conference last week.

She was responding to concerns raised by
delegates at the children and domestic violence conference over the
time it took to carry out assessments for contact cases to be
carried out and reports prepared.

The conference, held by Children Law UK in
London last week, heard that courts are still enforcing contact
orders between children and parents despite evidence of domestic
violence and child protection concerns.

Claire Sturge a consultant child psychiatrist
who co-authored guidelines on contact for the Court of Appeal, told
the conference that a violent parent needed to earn the privilege
of contact. “It’s a really serious matter when a court tells a
child they want them to have contact with someone they know has
done very bad and evil things.”

The Women’s Aid Federation of England is
calling for legislative changes to the Children Act 1989 to ensure
the issue of domestic violence is properly addressed by the

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