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, 22 November 2013

The Use of ISWs in care proceedings

I am pleased to be attending the ALC Annual Conference in Manchester and am listening to Dr Julia Brophy speaking about her paper "Neither Fear Nor Favour: The views and practices of senior judges regarding the use and value of independent social work expertise in care proceedings".

The full report can be read here

Key findings included:

* Judges did not consider that they frequently ordered ISW reports

* the main reason for using ISWs was that the local authority did not have the skills / expertise in-house or lacked resources to prepare a report in time

* the need for an independent view because of actual or perceived bias by the LA was rarely put forward and rarely determinative although it was more commonly a reason among many

* LAs usually actively participated / welcomed the instruction of an ISW

* Judges had and were prepared to turn down applications (even joint applications) unless the need to instruct the ISW could be demonstrated

* More than half of reports were outstanding / excellent and generally good with only 3 reports being less than satisfactory

* Most reports were delivered on time

* Most Judges considered the core assessment generated by the ICS as not fit for purpose (lacking analysis, repetitious, fonts too small, too many boxes, difficult to locate information etc etc.)

* Judges raised concerns about the lack of experience and training of LA social workers in the legal arena

* Fewer than half of LAs inspected completed core assessments in 35 days

* Only 5% of assessments were consistently good (the rest were variable, improving or unacceptably poor)

* Judges do not anticipate changing their practices in respect of authorising ISWs because of the policy / legal developments such as the 26 week rule - ISWs are rarely used and need must be demonstrated but if there is a need the reports will be directed





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