The welfare of children must be at the heart of the processes involved in considering whether to take a child into care, Family Justice Minister Harriet Harman will say today.
Ms Harman will be speaking at a conference organised by The Michael Sieff Foundation with the support of Children Law UK to examine the future of childcare proceedings. These organisations work to improve policy and practice for children and young people in need and aim to ensure the best outcome for those involved in legal proceedings.
Ms Harman will say:
“The family courts make extremely difficult and complex decisions. Taking a child into care or placing it into adoption can change a child’s life forever. We want to ensure that the interests of children going through care proceedings are at the heart of the system.
“Today’s conference is important as it is a chance for people from all the different agencies involved in the child care system, from social work, to local authority social services, the legal profession and the courts, to talk to each other and learn from each other’s experiences.
“We need to ensure that all the agencies in the system work together effectively, to ensure that cases are better prepared and avoid unnecessary delay, as we know that the longer the period of uncertainty, the worse it is for the child.
“The Government’s Child Care Proceedings Review made it clear that the only way to achieve better and improved outcomes for vulnerable children is by ensuring all agencies co-operate to establish safe, permanent and timely decisions.”
Together with the Department for Education (DfES) and Skills, the Welsh Assembly Government, the judiciary, CAFCASS, CAFCASS Cymru and the Legal Services Commission, the Department for Constitutional Affairs is taking forward the recommendations set out in the review to ensure there is a co-ordinated approach to reducing delay in care proceedings.
Recommendations on how to improve the way the system works were set out in the Review of the Child Care Proceedings System in England and Wales, published by the Department for Constitutional Affairs in May 2006.
The majority of the review’s immediate recommendations are being implemented through a combination of:
- revised statutory guidance to support local authorities in preparing care applications, which will be issued by the DfES under section 7 of the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970;
- a new protocol for progressing care cases, which is being developed by the judiciary; and
- improved availability of pre-proceedings legal advice to parents being developed by the Legal Services Commission.
Notes to Editors
1. Harriet Harman is speaking at 7pm on Monday 16th April at the Michael Sieff Foundation Conference in Covent Garden.
2. The review of the child care proceedings system in England and Wales was published by the Department for Constitutional Affairs on 18 May 2006. To read the Review visit: http://www.dca.gov.uk/publications/reports_reviews/childcare_ps.pdf