Cafcass has been accused of 'diluting' the role of children's guardians and minimising their legal obligations.
Nagalro, which is the professional association for Family Court Advisers, Children’s Guardians and Independent Social Workers, have accused Cafcass of disseminating inaccurate information on its website.
The association highlighted recent judgements which have reinforced their view that "children’s interests are being compromised".
It cites Leicestershire County Council v AB & Ors  EWFC 58 held on 31 August 2018, in which the judge was unable to rely on the evidence of the children’s guardian. In another case, the children guardian’s appointment was terminated for an abdication of her responsibility as the children’s guardian and acting contrary to the interests of the child in R v A Local Authority & Others  EWFC 49 (Fam).
A statement issued by Nagalro outlines how in June 2019, the association became aware of inaccurate details on the Cafcass website, specifically the page that explains to parents the role of the Children’s Guardian in care proceedings.
Nagalro says the association wrote to Julie Brown, interim Chief Executive of Cafcass prior to Jacky Tiotto's starting date as chief executive in September, explaining its concerns; particularly that the information does not accurately reflect the legal powers and duties of the guardian and that it may impede guardians in carrying out a thorough investigation on behalf of the children whose rights and interests they represent.
Nagalro also highlighted the Gov.uk website to Cafcass which explains the children’s guardian’s role accurately and in plain English and suggested that this should replace the Cafcass publication.
"We are disappointed that we have now received a reply from Cafcass declining to change their website content. Nagalro urges Cafcass to review their policies in the light of the evidence of the service failings revealed by recent court judgements and to provide accurate information to the public and practitioners," said the statement.
"The powers and duties of the children’s guardian are clearly set out in the Children Act 1989 and the associated Family Proceedings Court rules and are designed to ensure that children’s guardians are able to exercise the full extent of the legal powers available to them in order to safeguard each child’s welfare," the association concluded.
A spokesperson for Cafcass told Community Care that it was “disappointed” by Nagalro’s press release, describing it as “a misrepresentation” of ongoing discussions between the two parties.
“Contrary to what Nagalro has stated, Cafcass is actively considering our current content on the role of the guardian,” the spokesperson said. “Cafcass recognises that the guardian is the independent voice of the child in court. As with all our content, information on our website must be clear and accessible, particularly for those children and families facing care proceedings who are at a critical point in their lives.”
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