The government has backed down on changing the law on named guardians in family court proceedings.
Ministers had been considering using parliamentary clauses in the Schools and Safeguarding Bill, expected to be announced in the Queen’s Speech tomorrow (Wednesday 18, Nov), that would allow Cafcass to allocate duty guardians to represent children in some initial court cases.
However, in a letter sent last week to Sir Mark Potter, president of the family division and head of family justice, children’s secretary Ed Balls said he recognised Potter’s, and others’ concerns about the move.
“As you are aware, we have considered the option of amending primary legislation to clarify the appointment and accountability of Cafcass officers, but we have decided that this is not the right course to pursue at this time,” the letter stated.
However, Balls said the unprecedented number of referrals to Cafcass meant the government would still need to pursue a range of options to help, including amending court rules to allow the use of duty guardians.
“To drive this forward I understand that Baroness Morgan will be seeking an opportunity to meet with you over the next few days and will also be speaking with other stakeholders.”
The letter follows a campaign by an alliance of 20 organisations including the Association of Lawyers for Children and guardian’s professional association Nagalro to stop changes to the law.
Nagalro welcomed the move. Spokesperson Alison Paddle said: “It means children’s rights are not in the gift of any one organisation. It shows how important this bit of legislation is in safeguarding children’s rights.”
Chief executive of Cafcass Anthony Douglas said: “We now need to build a consensus for change across the family justice system. This must include how we can best support children with deep and complex needs. Like all of our partner agencies, our resources are limited and finite. This is a shared problem requiring shared solutions and we shall continue along those lines.”