A simplified tool to improve care applications by social workers is to be launched next week.
Developed by Cafcass and the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), the tool is designed to replace traditional court bundles, which are often 400 to 500 pages long, with a “short, sharp document” that is only 30 to 40 pages in length.
Speaking at the ADCS annual conference, Anthony Douglas, chief executive of Cafcass, said: “We’re launching a template for the local authority case made under the revised Public Law Outline, which is being piloted from 1 July.
“Taken together with the Cafcass case analysis template and guidance it introduces a single and simplified social work framework for assessment and case analysis in care proceedings. It should at the same time help all concerned focus on the key issues in the case and see the wood for the trees.”
Andrew Webb, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said: “The document has been produced to mirror the requirements of the new Public Law Outline and brings into sharp focus the need for analytical writing and the presentation of analytical social work in order to support a full understanding by all parties of what the local authority position is in relation to the child and the long term plan for that child.”
Douglas said the tool should increase the status of social workers as experts in cases and build their confidence.
However, he admitted that for the tool to work, social workers will have to improve their standards of writing and case analysis. “This will be quite a stretch and training for social workers. It won’t be easy for social workers to suddenly and routinely produce a child impact statement, which includes a child’s own statement.”
Every director of children’s services will have the template for a care application under the revised Public Law Outline by the end of next week.
The Public Law Outline is designed to reduce delay in family court cases. It emphasises the importance of strong judicial case management throughout a case; of narrowing the issues in dispute and seeking to resolve these at a much earlier stage; of reducing the amount of written material and oral evidence so that practitioners can focus on the big issues in a case; and of introducing a pre-proceedings gate-keeping regime to ensure local authority cases are better assessed prior to an application to court being made.
“Work goes on to produce more detailed guidance to support social workers and guardians in what is a challenging and difficult area of social work,” added Douglas.