The inclusion of advisors in care proceedings before they reach court can reduce their duration by as much as three weeks, new research suggests.
A ‘pre-proceedings’ pilot study conducted in Liverpool introduced an advisor to 11 out of 26 care cases. The average duration of those which included an advisor at an early stage was 23.5 weeks, while those which did not lasted an average of 26.1 weeks.
In addition, the presence of advisors seemed to increase the likelihood of the affected children staying with their birth families: more than half were able to do so, compared to only 40 per cent of the children in cases where no advisor was involved.
Social workers involved in such cases were able to spend additional time with the families and said they therefore felt more confident presenting their evidence in the courtroom.
Family court advisors provide independent representation for children involved in care proceedings.
Researcher Dr Kim Holt of the University of Northumbria said the pilot study had shown that:
“…There is unequivocal support that the advisers were able to provide a head start, with fewer requests for additional reports and more emphasis placed on the social work assessment.”
The research was sponsored by Cafcass and the Liverpool City Council Children’s Services department.