About the Family Law Week blog

The Family Law Week Blog is a companion site to Family Law Week. It complements the news, cases and articles published on Family Law Week with additional comment and coverage of the wider aspects of family law.

The Blog is edited by Jacqui Gilliatt, of 4 Brick Court and Lucy Reed, of St Johns Chambers.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Equal opportunities for family carers

Some important rule changes have been made to allow relative carers the same entitlement as local authority foster carers to apply for residence or special guardianship by The Children and Young Persons Act 2008 (CYPA 2008) (amending the Children Act 1989 (the 1989 Act)).

At present, local authority foster carers, who have had the child living with them for one year immediately preceding the application, are entitled to apply for a residence order without the leave of the court. Relative carers are only able to do so with the leave of the court, unless:

They are local authority foster carers who have had the child living with them for one year immediately preceding the application (who are subject to child protection checks)

  • Have had the child living with them for three out of the last five years; or
  • Have the consent of every one with parental responsibility for the child
Sections 36 to 38 of the CYPA 2008, which comes into force on 1st September, adjusts the 1989 Act:

  • Entitling all relative carers to apply for a residence order and special guardianship orders under the 1989 Act if the child has lived with him/her for a period of at least one year immediately preceding the application; and
  • Raising the age at which a residence order automatically ends from 16 to 18 years of age.
  • Raising the age limit, at which a residence order automatically ends, from 16 to 18 years, will provide greater stability for the child. The changes will also facilitate continued financial support for carers’ entitlement, which ceases at the end of the residence order (normally 16 years old at present).
Prior to the implementation of the CYPA 2008, a residence order ceases to have effect when the child reaches 16 unless the court is satisfied the circumstances are exceptional.

The CYPA 2008 changes this so that a residence order will last until the child reaches 18 unless the court directs otherwise.

The following court forms and leaflets have been amended to reflect these changes:

  • C13A – Supplement for an application for SGO
  • CB1 – Making an application – Children and family courts
  • CB4 – Special Guardianship – a guide for court users

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Social Work Recruitment

The drive to increase social work recruitment now includes a celebrity advertising campaign which you can see here. It involves Goldee, Samantha Morton and Michelle Ryan amongst others.

Meanwhile the difficulties managing workloads continue unresolved, both in CAFCASS and Local Authority social work.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

The Silly Season?

Lest you think that along with half the world I have been on holiday throughout August which might explain the lack of posts to this blog, let me instantly disabuse you. I have been here throughout the month but for some reason there has been a quite unprecedented level of work at the Bar. Usually I look forward to a bit of slacking during August and use the time to catch up on writing and so on. Usually I am in court about 3 days a week, generally dealing with relatively short matters just to keep cases ticking along. This year has been different and everyone I have encountered at court is reporting the same thing. I have had relocation cases coming out of my ears - no doubt listed to get heard before the start of the school term. But that does not explain the volume of care cases. Of course, if you are not on holiday and a family practitioner, the irony is that even if I had posted, you probably would not have had time to read the blog anyway!

Be reassured, however, that there has not been a great deal happening in family law other than the daily grind, apart from a flurry of re-interest in Baby P following the naming of the family and the news of the social work team's challenges to the sackings.

The other alarming feature of family work at the moment is the shortage of Guardians about which there has been much heated debate in the Cafcass Google group. I understand that in London there are now over 400 cases waiting to be allocated. I have also been told that the plan to solve this problem is simply to allocate the cases. This, of course, will not solve the problem at all. Cases will come off a waiting list for allocation but if there are not the practitioners available to do the work we will still be waiting sometimes for months for the Guardians to be able to carry out any sort of effective role. I have had my first case (and the first of its kind for the court as well) which went through from start (February) to end (August) without a Guardian being allocated at all. In another case, the Guardian was allocated but simply had no time to do any work and had not by the time of the final hearing met any of the main family protagonists, nor the child. Despite the President's guidance on interim measures, I am not aware of anything being implemented and have yet to encounter a duty Guardian scheme.

This is what Cafcass are saying in one area at least about the prioritisation of cases:

We are prioritising on a predominantly safeguarding basis, i.e. High priority cases are those where very vulnerable children (due to age, disability, or nature of harm) are currently at home with the alleged perpetrator and/ or with no apparent adequate protector (under no order or on an interim order) or remain exposed to harm in some other way e.g. through threat of abduction, suicide/ self harm. We are allocating these cases as fast as we can, while also slipping in some applications that have perhaps already been waiting for allocation of a Guardian for a considerable period

The next priority category, Medium, relates to cases where vulnerable children are in foster care or other suitably assessed placement (with or without order), and are therefore safe in the short term. This category might also include cases of older children where there are particular complexities e.g. risk-taking behaviour etc.

The Low priority cases are where children are in foster care or other approved placement and on the face of it there are few complexities and/ or few assessments are anticipated e.g. cases where there have been recent final orders made in respect of siblings and the respondent child is in foster care, or cases where the child is in a safe placement and a discharge of an existing order is sought.
In my case without a Guardian being allocated at all the solicitor representing the child (in foster care, waiting for the court's approval for an SGO to the grandmother) was categorised as low priority and he was advised that the earliest likely allocation of a Guardian for a medium risk case was November, with low risk cases likely to remain unallocated until December - January 2009.

How was your barbecue summer?

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Family / Law Issues on Radio & Tv

The Chambers Part 2

Interesting piece about CRB Checks & Secret Letters on Ipm on Saturday and see this blogpost

In Divorce: Jewish Style, Channel 4's Revelations Series about the impact of religion tonight covered the "chained women" because under orthodox Jewish law only the husband can initiate the religious divorce or get. See also The Independent's coverage

Lynn Featherstone asks questions about Baby P on BBC News