Emma presses the Children’s Minister on rushed care proceedings

December 3, 2015

130709 - Emma Lerwell Buck MP 01 smallFollowing the release in recent months of a Department for Education report examining the impact of family justice reforms on the use of special guardianship orders, Emma raised concerns with the Minister for Children and Families that since the Departments own research raises problems with the 26 week timescale for care proceedings regarding Special Guardianship Orders then is it not time to accept that the 26 week timescale is causing more problems than it is solving for all care proceedings.

Local authorities currently have a 26-week limit to carry out assessment of potential carers and the child or children in question’s needs. This is leading to a backlog in cases waiting to be dealt with or rushed through to meet this arbitrary timescale. This raises concerns that the assessments are not as rigorous as they should be when taking decisions about a child’s well-being and future, or that they are delayed unnecessarily causing children in already-difficult circumstances further stress.

Emma said:

“The Government’s own findings show that the 26-week timescale that is applied in care proceedings is leading to rushed and unsuitable placements for children under special guardianship orders. In light of that, will the Minister accept what the social work profession has known all along: that 26 weeks is not sufficient to plan properly for a vulnerable child’s life?”

The Minister, Edward Timpson, confirmed that the Government need to ensure that the assessment of the potential carers for those children is as robust as it is in respect of any other decision about a child’s long-term permanence. He went on to say that “there is a concern that, in too many cases, that is not happening.”

Speaking afterwards, Emma went on to say:

“Having still been in practice when the 26 week timescale was being introduced, I have a very clear view on how this timescale is working in practice.  Professionals will hold off issuing Care Proceedings for children, even when they know this is in the children’s best interests, as they know they cannot meet the 26 week timescales. So cases are log jammed and only enter the court process once the social worker is confident they can complete their assessments in time or when they have already completed the assessments.  In practice, a measure that was intended to speed up the court process and seeking outcomes for children has actually in some cases lengthened the process.  This is not good for children.”

You can read the full debate here

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