Cafcass is planning to introduce a “watching brief” role for guardians employed by the family courts body to tackle the backlog of cases.
Anthony Douglas, Cafcass’s chief executive, told Community Care that Cafcass needed to look at ways to manage the higher levels of court applications.
“This is likely to mean that once we’ve carried out early safeguarding and assessment work on all cases we will direct our most intensive support to those children who most urgently need it and will maintain a watching brief on those cases where the professional assessment of our guardians shows that less intensive work is required – this would be in discussion with the child’s solicitor and the courts,” said Douglas.
According to Alison Paddle, former chair of guardians’ body Nagalro, this “dangerous” practice would mean there is “even less scope” for guardians to meet children, or for children to benefit from their right to a named guardian.
Paddle said: “Anthony Douglas has said he wants to cut the hours spent on cases and bring in a ‘watching brief’ category of guardian. This is a recipe for inaction and dangerous practice.
“Children have rights to a quality service that is good enough in each case to protect their interests proactively. Cafcass was set up to provide a vital service to children, not to undermine it.”
The development follows news that emergency measures introduced to manage soaring care applications will be extended for a further six months, until September 2010.
The controversial measures, issued in July 2009 by Sir Mark Potter, chair of the family courts division, permitted Cafcass to allocate cases to teams of duty guardians, rather than to one named practitioner. They have so far been extended on a rolling six-month basis even though Potter said they would “not be in the form of a long-term practice direction.”
Douglas said the unpopular measures had been “instrumental…in allowing Cafcass to tackle backlogs locally”.