Move to introduce duty guardians in courts attacked as a poor substitute

Legal experts say a plan to put children’s guardians on duty at two
courts in central London could cause confusion.

The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service has come
up with the controversial proposal to speed the processing of
cases, which are being delayed by a shortage of guardians in the
capital. Many of the 310 children in England waiting to have a
guardian allocated to them are in London.

The scheme is to be piloted at Well Street Court and the Principal
Registry Office.

Cafcass admits it is “not the best solution [which is to appoint
permanent guardians for the length of the case]but we believe it is
better for a child to have the benefit of an independent voice at
the beginning of the case rather than no voice at all”.

It said the scheme, under which a duty guardian would be appointed
to a case for “essential tasks” when no permanent guardian could be
found, had the support of the judiciary.

The tasks include instructing experts, liaising with the child’s
solicitor, discussing assessment needs and completing secure
accommodation applications.

But Alison Paddle, chair of guardians ad litem organisation
Nagalro, believes a duty guardian would be a poor substitute for a
permanent appointment.

She said the plan might lead to dangerous practice because of
potential confusion when the case was transferred from the duty
guardian to the permanent one.

Liz Goldthorpe, chair of the Association of Lawyers for Children,
said she understood why Cafcass was doing it, but felt it could
undermine the stability of the system. She also questioned whether
duty guardians would only be able to make short-term decisions that
would offer little help to solicitors working on the case.

She added: “It is better than having no guardian at all but I’m
anxious about it becoming an entrenched part of practice,
especially as the delays in the system will not be resolved for at
least 18 months.”

Earlier this month, in an effort to reduce delays, the new Cafcass
chair, Baroness Pitkeathley, wrote to self-employed guardians
asking them to take on more work for Cafcass and urging those who
left the service two years ago over a contract dispute to

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.