Safeguarding of children remains a cause for concern, say inspectorates

Safeguarding of children remains a cause for concern, say
inspectorates Children are still at risk because of failings in the
family courts and social services departments applying overly high
thresholds in responding to child protection concerns, according to
a new report, writes Amy Taylor.

A major criticism is that the Children and Family Court Advisory
and Support Service (Cafcass) and the courts still do not have
adequate practices for safeguarding children.

There is confusion in family proceedings about what safeguarding
means and this acts as a barrier to interagency working, it

The report looks at how children are protected in a range of
settings such as those in receipt of universal services, those
living in young offender institutions, those involved in family
proceedings, and asylum-seeking children.

It was produced by eight inspectorates and warns that safeguarding
practices have been “significantly hindered” by “widespread and
chronic delays” in allocating Cafcass staff to both public and
private law proceedings.

While steps have been taken to address delays, they remain a
problem in some areas.

The report partly attributes courts’ failings to them not being
fully involved in the first safeguarding review, carried out in

The inspectorates calls for a definition of what safeguarding means
in the justice system and for existing elements of safeguarding
policy and practice to be brought together into overarching
strategies in the Crown Prosecution Service, Cafcass and the

Anthony Douglas, chief executive of Cafcass, said eliminating
delays was the organisation’s “number one priority”.

“We have plans in place to provide a clearer understanding both
internally and externally of the role we play in safeguarding
children in family courts.”

A regional director, supported by a team drawn from across the
service, has been seconded part time to “ensure practice
improvement programmes are developed and shared,” he added.

The report draws on inspections of Cafcass in England and Wales
from March to December 2004 and visits to six county courts and
linked magistrates’ courts in England.

Meanwhile, the Department for Education and Skills has also brought
out guidance to ensure safer recruitment and selection in education

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