Debate on court delays affecting children’s care proceedings

We asked for views on the primary cause of delays in the
court process affecting care proceedings.

To read a recent Community Care article on the subject

click here

These are the responses we received:

I perceive the primary cause for delays in
care proceedings is due to:

a)  Identifying and timetabling expert witnesses.

c)  Identifying of a guardian.

Where a child has a disability there appears to be greater


“Guardians and their solicitors wanting more and more expert

Experts asking for further specialist opinion and recommending

Its a gravy train and it doesn’t protect children and it isn’t
fair to parents


I write in my capacity as director of the
adoption and permanence taskforce. Increasingly we are encouraging
councils with social services responsibilites and hence for care
proceedings to work with local legal services, CAFCASS and the
courts (at FPC and county levels) to take a wider systems
perspective of the processes through which a child travels from
initial referral through to final order.

We are facilitating events for all the stake holders, including
established adopters, to do three things: 1. A representative from
each of the stakeholders to explain their role ( ie to ensure all
those involved understand each other’s roles) 2. Invite
stakeholders to describe what makes their task unnecessarily
difficult because of the behaviours/demands of other stakeholders.
3. To agree a work programme to tackle some of the issues.

The main topics which emerge are:

1. lack of understanding of the ‘whole system’ 2. assumption
that only ‘they’ have problems with staff shortages 3. failure to
recognise how changes in one place affect other parts eg increases
in sitting days in the court and the pressure this generates 4.
separate briefings of scarce specialists 5. unacceptable behaviour
of some barristers towards social workers in court  6. repeated
request/coyping of the same information 7. re-starting the process
when the case reaches court  8. lack of confidence among social
workers 9. YES staff shortages/skills, but this is common across
the system and there are ways of improving performance which can
ameliorate some of the effects of staff

Mike Lauerman

The primary cause of delays is the fact that
the social worker responsible for taking the care proceedings does
not have sufficient credibility. This means that despite the fact
she/he will have done everything possible to avoid taking
proceedings, the whole process usually has to be gone through again
for the benefit of the court.”

Deb Harvey

I am the mother of a daughter, aged seven, who
went into care on the 20 February 2003. It was amicably agreed in
court, the day before.

I feel that there have only recently been advancements in our
case. The main reasons for this are:
a) the lack of a guardian to represent my daughter’s interests. The
one we have started a month after the case originally went to
b) the lack of a psychiatrist that could start work in a reasonable
amount of time. The preferred person couldn’t begin work until
September, the second choice can begin in June, but is having a
break in August and not able to give his report until October.

It also hasn’t helped that we have had to have a change of
social worker as ours has a long term illness.

The period before she went into care was actually very stressful
for me and my daughter. Knowing that if she had the slightest mark
she would be snatched away into care had a profound effect on both
our health and her behaviour in school and at home. Now that she
appears to have settled into a foster family her behaviour seems
much improved and my daughter is much happier.

It is also really important for social workers to make sure that
the relevant reports are sent to solicitors so that they can be
discussed before court. On two occasions this has not been done.
The initial appearance at court was less than a week after the
first documents were faxed to my solicitor. There appeared to be a
conspiracy of silence.

A week before court my social worker actually told me that she
would have preferred to take her into care before court, but there
were no homes available. This would have been very traumatic for
both my daughter and myself. I am relieved that it was not
possible, and that we could do it in a more amicable manner.

I hope there are some facts here that can


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