Care Crisis Review

Today, June 13th the Family Rights Group published the Care Crisis Review report. The email sending out the press release states:

The Review confirms there is a crisis in Children’s Social Care and Family Justice Sector, explores the reasons why and sets out 20 options for change.

Over 2000 people and organisations contributed to the Review, including the Local Government Association, Ofsted, Cafcass and Cafcass Cymru, the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, the All Wales Heads of Children’s Services, third sector organisations and alliances, the Offices of the English and Welsh Children’s Commissioners, members of the judiciary, lawyers, social care practitioners, young people and families.

For further information please contact Cathy Ashley, Chief Executive, Family Rights Group. cashley@frg.org.uk

Read the report here.

The 20 options for change

  • Immediate steps that could be taken to move away from an undue focus on processes and performance indicators, to one where practitioners are able to stay focused on securing the right outcomes for each child.
  • Approaches, including family group conferences, in which families are supported to make safe plans for their child.
  • Suggestions of ways in which statutory guidance, such as Working Together to Safeguard Children, can be changed in order to promote relationship-based practice.
  • Opportunities for revitalising local and national family justice forums and other mechanisms, so that all can become places where challenges within the system are discussed and solutions developed.
  • Proposals for the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Education, in consultation with the devolved administrations, to examine the impact of benefit rules and policies, and the projected effect of planned benefit reforms, on the numbers of children entering or remaining in care.
  • A call for the Ministry of Justice to undertake an impact assessment of the present lack of accessible, early, free, independent advice and information for parents and wider family members on the number of children subject to care proceedings or entering or remaining in the care system, and the net cost to the public purse.
  • That the National Family Justice Board revises the approach to measuring timescales, including the 26 week timescale for care proceedings.
  • That there are improvements in exploring and assessing potential carers from within the family, when a child cannot live at home, and better support is provided to such carers and children so they do not face severe financial hardship.
  • That Ofsted and Social Care Wales in their inspections and research should take into account the duties on local authorities to support families and to promote children’s upbringing within their family.

The report also notes the £2 billion shortfall in children’s social care service and supports The ADCS and LGA’s call for Government to provide the cash, making the uncontroversial point that “Money and resources matter for families and for services”.

I don’t disagree with any of those 20 points. That there is a crisis in the child protection system is obvious and has been for a long time now. The President of the Family Division agrees.  Lord Justice McFarlane’s speech at the launch of the Review is now available online.

I first wrote this post about ‘Forced adoption’ in 2014. I have long commented upon and decried the frankly woeful state of the debate in our country about these vital issues and I have warned time and time again at the dangerous impact of those who profess to ‘campaign’ for parents.

However, I am sadly very pessimistic that anything is going to change. There can be little doubt what the problems are and little doubt about what is needed to fix them. Social workers who are not struggling under excessive case loads. Who have access to services and support for families who are struggling. That needs money. There isn’t any and there won’t be any because we have shown, collectively, as a society  – when we need to make a choice about the politicians we elect, we chose those who promise to cut taxes and hence services.

However, it goes further and deeper than that I fear. The only value children seem to have in our society is as economic actors; if they aren’t on track to achieve whatever grade is now valued in school exams, they are worthless. If they fail, its because they deserved to. Because they were lazy or didn’t try.  The culture of blame and shame which makes it so difficult for people to own and learn from their mistakes is enthusiastically promoted by politicians and journalists.

Journalists tell me that there is no point in trying to move away from sensationalist reporting and click bait headlines because ‘it’s what people want’. Even with easily available published judgments to the cases they write about, they will not provide their readers with a link to that judgment or even read it themselves.

I note with sadness that, for example, The Times offers a short comment on this review and can’t even be bothered print the correct name of the Family Rights Group.

We are really in a mess.

What’s the way out? Short of a magic money tree and shipping a boatload of politicians and journalists off to some hellish version of Love Island where they can simply rant at each other and leave the rest of us in peace, I have no clue.

All I can do is continue to operate in my sphere of influence. If we cannot make the fundamental changes to the system that I and many others think are needed, we can try and make parents and children have an easier passage through the system, to feel less brutalised by a system they do not understand or which is not well explained.

I think we do that by talking, listening and discussing. To find out what we can achieve to make things better.

The Transparency Project is again supporting #CPConf2018 and we are going to meet in London on 15th September to talk particularly about the issue of removal of children on the basis of future emotional harm. All are welcomed who have an interest – which really, should be all of us.

5 thoughts on “Care Crisis Review

  1. Sam

    “It may properly be said that we have reached a stage where the threshold for obtaining
    a public law court order is noticeably low, whereas, no doubt as a result of the current
    financial climate, the threshold for a family being able to access specialist support
    services in the community is conversely, very high.” from Lord Justice Mcfarlane’s speech. Judges are acting just as risk adverse as social workers as if they were not they would be throwing these cases out of court as they are clearly not compliant with the duty in the CA for LA’s to minimise both care proceedings as well as human rights infringements. I don’t want to be critical all the time and I am glad the judiciary are recogonising what families have been yelling about for years.

    Reply
  2. Angelo Granda

    I ,too,agree with the twenty points of the care crisis review and thank Sarah for continuing to provide us with the opportunity to discuss matters on the CPR. As she says ,all she can do is operate within her sphere of influence . As leader of this resource and as a member of the transparency project, i hope she will consider issuing periodic press releases nationwide ( even worldwide) under the CPR letterhead as a way of publicising the thoughts of both websites and that she will submit periodic reports and miscellaneous views of service -users to those in power like McFarlane J and MP’s ,Ministers etc.

    A Parents View.

    Yes we are in a mess so what can we do? The mention of magic money trees and the necessity to rid the system of ranting politicians ,raving journalists etc. confirms what most of us have known for a long time. The current system is led in some county boroughs (making it a post-code lottery) by bunches of politically-controlled local public officials whose main fault is that they are not attuned to the requirements of the Children Act and not focused on the legitimate aim to help and support families and keep them together.They are intent on the illegitimate aim of taking children into care for reasons which do not gel with the Law.

    Yet i believe that lawyers have more power to implement change than they think they have. An important point, in my opinion, is that child-protection cases are local affairs and hearings are in local courts heard by locally-based Judges. This may be okay in civil cases involving other matters such as financial disputes, libel cases, employment law etc. and perhaps even private law family disputes but i don’t believe the current system is entirely fair ( see article 6 ECHR) when public law cases involving the local politically-inspired local authorities are the litigants or the respondents. Let me explain my thoughts on this.

    There is a national government and a national statute. There is a national high court and supreme court. It is usual for the national judiciary to appoint hundreds of provincial judges to sit in the various provinces whose job it is to implement the Law .In the civil court system ,these provincial judges whom we might also call for the sake of discussion ‘provincial governors ‘ are granted the discretion to pass judgment which are attuned to the Local Authorities provincial politics and penchants.
    Like Pontius Pilate, it may well be they know there is not enough evidence to endorse severe sanctions against a family but they will often find it more politically prudent to keep the local officials happy and ignore the real truth.
    Please note this is a historic truth which often leads to unfair decisions in this day and age. Sarah and other lawyers, i imagine in your long years in court , you can think of more than one occasion when you have considered decisions unfair. They are!

    1.Cases may have been conducted wrongly,evidence flawed and untrue ,frameworks not followed etc. The Judge’s decision seems irrational but how can one argue with a judges decision when they are granted such wide discretion. What can be done ? There is only one remedy and that is an appeal to a higher ( national) court not subject to local influences.
    To enable this course of action ,it will be necessary to free parents from the requirement to get leave to appeal from the local court. Appeals to the High Court must be automatic ( and legally funded ) . That is one precise,practical solution to the mess we are in.
    2. The other precise, practical solution to the mess we find ourselves in ,in my opinion, is that strict limitations be placed on civil family courts. To force compliance with article 8 (ECHR) as to proportionality, it should be barred from imposing family liquidation plans .This will oblige the LA’s to consider all the options for family support in accordance with the Children Act and to either pay for them or drop the case.

    Please discuss readers, and ask Sarah questions. Might i say that i do not think any change of the law will be necessary to clean up this mess.I believe the judiciary can adapt and alter its protocol at will when it comes to fair hearings and proportionate penalties and so on.

    Reply
    1. Sam

      On the question of bias, I now have another viewpoint from personal experience. I am currently in a position where I am given more than the benefit of the doubt. Which is a great postion to be in , but got me thinking. I can do no wrong as the people trust me as they have past experience of others like me with a similar background. There are others , who do not have this background and they are not shown similar favour.
      Is this not an example of what happens in court? The judge is far more likely to trust the evidence of a professional as they have professionals in front of them day in and day out, than a random parent. I think in particular of Cafcass officers. The only court model that may eliminate this bias is FDAC as the judge which actually get to know the parents. Roll on all care proceedings in FDAC type courts.

      Reply
  3. Angelo Granda

    Sam, From my own experience i know what you mean. The LA appears to be in control whatever their aims happen to be.Legitimate or not as the case may be. Whichever ,once they set out their stall, all other professionals,guardian’s ,IRO’S,contact workers,parenting assessors,placement officers,foster-carers etc, appear to follow the leader and adapt their purportedly independent reports and assessments to fit. I have never seen anyone ever disagree with the LA yet. Of course,most often the Judge goes along with the LA too.

    Indeed there lies a clue for us, ‘to go along with’.

    Sarah is fairly insistent that there is no ‘bias’ in Family Courts. How can there be?,She says quite rightly that both men and women complain of bias and they can’t both be right.Both Mums and Dads claim the Court is biased towards professional evidence over theirs but is bias the right word to use?

    Perhaps the right word is comitant. In Latin,it means to go along with,set up camp with ,to follow. Think about it for a minute; apparently the CS under the auspices of its controlling employers ,the LA , whose policy imperatives must be obeyed , is granted the power to lead the child – protection process. They are professionals and they are given a mandate to carry out inquiries and make decisions as to care-plans.

    The lawyers and the Judges also grant the CS comity i.e. courtesy ,mandate and mutual respect on the understanding that , they are professionals with equal and the same ethos and ethical standards as they have and that their intentions are bone fide and in accordance with the law etc. They accept the authority of the LA ; they also consider the CS the leaders and rely on them to be open and honest.
    In other words , cases rely entirely on the integrity of the LA and the professionals it commands. They hold most of the strings and why shouldn’t they? They are the local government; an authority with the power to decide; even parents themselves go along with them as advised by their solicitors.

    In truth, the only protection citizens against these civil courts lies in the law itself. As Lord Munby has said , the CS have to be open and honest especially on oath, they should consult parents and allow them to express disagreements etc,they have to keep meticulous records and follow guidelines and frameworks. Their enquiries must be fair and impartial.THEY MUST CONDUCT CASES CORRECTLY.

    The lawmakers are fully aware of the weaknesses of the civil court system ,comitance and mutual respect between professionals and how it can result in unfair trials ,disproportionate decisions and miscarriages of justice. Which is why they have laid down strict legal guidelines and safeguards to be followed scrupulously . Unless they are , the permanent liquidation of families should NEVER be ordered and should only be ordered very rarely anyway.

    I am afraid to say none of this alters the fact that the LA’s have illegitimate aims and in the pursuit of them , they are guilty of abusing the power and authority granted to them.The guidelines and frameworks are regularly flouted and court documents are regularly dishonest.Further proof of the illegitimate aims lies in the continual erosion of human rights especially to a fair trial. I see the FDAC type hearings are being stopped and legal funding cut again.

    Just to try and explain comity again. If one were engaged in a civil court case against the Inland Revenue,for example regarding non-payment of tax, it is they who are the trusted authority who are expected to be open and honest not you. When everything is said and done, there word will be relied on by the Court. However, should one insist the tax has been paid and show the revenue officer a receipt for the payment, you will expect them to act professionally,credit one with the payment and withdraw the case.You would not expect them to deny the receipt, fail to report it to court and refuse to alter the accounts and continue with the case against you. Yet the LA does it all the time in child-protection; i guess they want them in care really badly.

    Sam ,regarding the child-sex abuse in the care system. It was fully examined by a Crown Court Judge in the case of Operation Cleopatra not that long ago after a full inquiry which resulted in several convictions. He described it as having been cultural in social services since the 1940’s at least and he also stated that children were usually abused within ‘hours’ of being taken from parents. The impact on the children is pretty rapid.

    Reply

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