A pilot study by researchers at Lancaster University and the University of Bradford has found that involving children’s guardians in vulnerable families may avoid the need for care proceedings.
The pilot study, listed in the Family Justice Review and Government response to that review, examined whether earlier involvement of the Children’s Guardian might ensure more cases are prevented from going to court, or where cases go to court, that they are resolved more quickly.
The research team found that the Guardian’s independence of the local authority was seen as particularly advantageous in terms of enabling parents to engage with concerns for children.
One lawyer for parents involved in a case said: “...the Guardian can put it in layman's terms - make it easier to understand - the parent will listen and open the parents' eyes. At this point the parents are very vulnerable, but if the Guardian can advocate for the child and get the parent to listen ... that's good .. the Guardian can be the voice of calm when the parents are very upset with the local authority. “
Dr Karen Broadhurst, from Lancaster University’s Department of Applied Social Science, said: “The courts are dealing with a huge number of cases and it’s better if the Guardian can divert cases and reduce that volume of applications. In cases where diversion plans unfortunately fail, we found that the Children’s Guardians were very positive about being involved earlier as this enabled them to provide a stronger steer for the courts, reducing the likelihood of time wasting, duplicate assessments.”
The report from the pilot project will go to the Ministry of Justice and the project will now be extended to Liverpool.