Researchers at Northumbria University have recently studied the impact of Family Court Advisers on the duration of court cases involving adoption or care proceedings.
They found that in cases where the Advisers were involved with the children and local authority before the proceedings began, the duration of court cases could be shorted by as much as three weeks.
These findings could be significant, because the longer a case takes to resolve, the more strain is placed on the children and families involved.
The Children and Families Act 2014 says that most care cases should be resolved within 26 weeks. However, in reality, delays caused by the fact that sometimes requests for assessments aren’t made until after the proceedings have begun can mean that cases last much longer, in some cases between 53 and 88 weeks.
“It is essential that the focus remains on the child in cases relating to their future care, rather than the competing agendas of the adults involved who are already individually represented,” explained Dr Kim Holt, Head of the Department of Social Work and Communities at Northumbria University. “The Family Court Adviser ensures that the child has an independent voice within child protection practice at the pre-proceedings stage.”
“We have found a direct link to the early involvement of Advisers to shorter care proceedings in some of the cases reviewed,” she added. “This means that the timeline for the resolution of care proceedings for children who are awaiting decisions about permanency would be significantly reduced if there is a robust mechanism for the completion of detailed assessments of the child and their family prior to a case proceeding to court.”
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