Oxford University study finds most family court judges believe independent social work reports are of good or excellent quality and prevent delays in care cases
Picture credit: Rex Features
Family court judges believe independent social workers prevent rather than cause delays in care proceedings, according to research by Oxford University.
The study, which canvassed the views of 23 family court judges in England and Wales, found many judges felt independent social workers (ISWs) made up for deficiencies in the quality and timeliness of local authority assessments.
The finding is at odds with the Ministry of Justice’s view that the use of ISWs by family courts leads to unnecessary duplication of local authority work and delays decisions about children’s futures.
Most of the judges questioned said ISWs were usually called when local authorities had failed to deliver an assessment, had produced inadequate assessments, lacked the necessary expertise or could not meet the court’s timescales.
Important findings at critical time for ISWs
Just over half of the judges felt ISWs produced reports of good or excellent quality. All but one said they had been involved in a case where an ISW’s assessment had “changed the direction of thinking and the order or placement proposed for a child”.
The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) and bodies representing ISWs, CISWA-UK and Nagalro, said the findings demonstrated the importance of ISWs in care cases at a time when many feel forced to leave the profession.
“This research shows clearly the formidable expertise and experience that independent social workers bring to often highly complicated family court proceedings,” the three organisations said in a joint statement.
“These professionals don’t duplicate the work of local authorities or Cafcass; they provide high-quality robust reports that help judges move forward quickly and ensure children spend as little time as necessary waiting for their futures to become clear.”
In light of the findings, the organisations urged the MoJ to reconsider its stance on the use of ISWs in care cases.
SOURCE: Community Care