Fears for children’s rights over move to cut guardians’ time on court cases

Guardians have warned that cost-cutting measures to keep them out
of court and reduce their role in private law cases will harm the
representation of vulnerable children.

Professional association Nagalro condemned the moves by the
Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service and the
family division of the High Court at its spring conference this

It passed a resolution rejecting calls by Cafcass chief executive
Anthony Douglas and family division president Elizabeth
Butler-Sloss in a memo last week for judges to minimise Cafcass
practitioners’ “unnecessary attendance” in court.

The move is designed to free up staff for other work, but chair of
Nagalro Alison Paddle said there was no way of knowing in advance
which court sessions guardians could afford not to attend.

“The child [will lose] the person who stands for them,” Paddle
said. “We are very unhappy that people who should be really
concerned with children’s rights are diminishing the capacity of
practitioners to actually protect children.”

There was also condemnation of a Butler-Sloss ruling last month.
She ruled that, from this April, district judges will not be
permitted to appoint guardians under rule 9.5 of the family
proceedings rules 1991, which covers sensitive or complex private
law cases.

There has been an explosion in cases under rule 9.5 over the past
year, and the interim measure is designed to reduce “an intolerable
strain on an already overstretched Cafcass” and reduce pressures on
the legal aid budget.

Under the ruling, district judges would have to transfer cases to
circuit colleagues if they believed a guardian should be
But, stressing that there was no evidence that district judges were
making rule 9.5 appointments unnecessarily, Paddle said: “There is
no recognition of those children who will need a 9.5 guardian and
will not get it under this system.”

Lamorna Wooderson, a corporate director at Cafcass, said the move
was not designed to prevent children getting necessary
representation but to ensure appointments were only made when
absolutely necessary.

“It is too early to predict whether number of appointments will
change,” she said. “But if demand remains high, then all
partiesÉ will need to adjust resource commitments

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