Family court adviser involvement may also shorten proceedings
The Cafcass Pre-Proceedings Pilot which sought to test the added value of the family court adviser in pre-proceedings practice in public law cases is now complete in Coventry and Warwickshire and sufficiently progressed in Liverpool that the researchers are able to report on the initiative. For an article setting out the research findings – Effecting change in local family justice systems? Findings from the Cafcass Pre-Proceedings Pilot, written by Dr Karen Broadhurst and Dr Paula Doherty of Manchester University, Ms Emily Yeend of Lancaster University, and Ms Kim Holt and Dr Nancy Kelly of Bradford University– please click here. The report itself is available on the Cafcass website.
The study reports findings from analysis of 75 cases that include cases in which the Family Court Adviser was introduced at a pre-proceedings stage (Cafcass PLUS) and comparator cases. Differences were observed across the three participating local authority sites, with the most pronounced impact of the Cafcass PLUS model reported on care proceedings duration in Warwickshire. In all three court areas, shared learning and a combination of initiatives appear to have delivered marked improvements in performance more generally. However, in Coventry and Warwickshire, improved performance still falls short of the proposed 26 weeks target. Diversion rates in all three local authority sites are high when compared with available benchmarks, indicating the value of the pre-proceedings process to achieve negotiated permanence solutions within kinship networks. The majority of stakeholders continued to value the independent oversight of the family court adviser within pre-proceedings, claiming that this gave greater assurance to administrative decision-making. Where stakeholders expressed reservation about the pilot, this related to capacity issues within Cafcass given care demand. How might the family court advisor be deployed within pre-proceedings without depleting resources needed within care and adoption proceedings?
From detailed review of the long running cases and interviews with key stakeholders the study identified the most common factors implicated in delay and which served as obstacles to a ‘planned’ approach to care proceedings. These obstacles comprised systemic or institutional factors (such as variability in the quality of social work assessment) and those that derive from child and family characteristics (such as the impact of short interval consecutive births).
The report also considers the challenges to local family justice systems and offers practical suggestions so that efforts to effect change can be maximised.
SOURCE: Family Law Week