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Social workers making the right decisions to protect children, say guardians

In over 80% of cases local authorities were right to make applications for care proceedings when there were no other courses of action

Social workers have been making the right decisions to protect children since the death of Baby P, research by Cafcass has found.

The organisation’s study, Three weeks in November, found that in over 80% of cases the local authority was correct to make an application for care proceedings when there were no other courses of action. It also found local authorities are doing a good job meeting, or partially meeting, the requirements of the new Public Law Outline.

The study surveyed over 300 children’s guardians, who are employed or commissioned by Cafcass to safeguard a child’s interests in care proceedings. It collected their views on the delivery of 391 care applications, which involved 684 children.

The guardians also concluded that a letter sent before proceedings, which enables the parents to obtain legal assistance and advice prior to a meeting with the authority, were in the child’s best interests on 91% of the occasions they were sent. It is the third time this type of research has been produced, the first time being 2009 after it was suggested that increasing care applications were influenced by a risk-averse social care culture in the wake of the Baby P case.

“It is fantastic news that Guardians consider that, in general, local authorities are bringing the right cases to court, in a timely way and with the cases being well prepared,” Cafcass chief Anthony Douglas said.

Less encouraging findings, such as an increased number of applications being considered late, were attributed to the changing expectations of guardians in line with the faster turnaround of care cases, which have reduced by 23 weeks on average since November 2011.

Annie Hudson, chief executive of The College of Social Work, praised children’s social workers for rising to the challenge of “demanding” expectations and requirements when working on care cases.

“These survey results are encouraging. They testify to the expertise and commitment of local authority social workers and guardians to making sure that children’s needs are at the heart of the complex and necessarily finely balanced family justice system decision making process.”

Story Courtesy of Community Care

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