Court work can be daunting. Whether you’re directly giving evidence, preparing reports and assessments or supporting vulnerable service users to participate in potentially life-changing decisions, operating in a changing legislative landscape brings many challenges.
For 2015, Community Care Live – the free development and training event – is introducing a mock court to help you hone your legal skills. The training sessions will be run by experts in areas including supporting children to give evidence, deprivation of liberty, and the Mental Capacity Act.
Preparation is key
The barristers, solicitors and social workers appearing in the mock court have a diverse range of expertise in their specific fields but all will place court work in the wider context of best social work practice.
Janique Burden from the NSPCC’s Young Witness Service will offer advice on separating a child’s needs and wishes from their parents’ and ensuring their voice is heard in court. She said:
Some of the issues mock court sessions will cover:
• The balance-sheet approach
• Helping children to give their best evidence
• The difference between capacity and best interests
• The impact of anticipated new guidance on the Re X process for deprivation of liberty
“Preparing children to give evidence starts early on in the process and by assessing risks and concerns, we can keep their welfare central and pre-empt problems that might lead to a case breaking down in court.”
The second session on day one of the event will address deprivations of liberty. Jess Flanagan, associate solicitor at Clarke Willmott, will explain ways that busy social workers can save time in the long run by ensuring capacity assessments are high quality.
Further sessions will cover best interests decisions and giving evidence at inquests.
Ensuring your knowledge and understanding of legislation and case law is clear and up-to-date can give you the edge to approach legal tasks efficiently and with authority.
Burden says: “Our main message for social workers is to have confidence in your role and your own expertise. You’re the person who knows the child best, the family dynamics, risks and safeguarding issues around the child. You are there in the background to make the process as easy as possible.”