Webinar provides insight on keeping families together after care proceedings

Children throwing a ball in the air against a sunny backdrop

More than 600 people took part in a webinar to gain an insight on parental perspectives on care proceedings, supervision orders and care at home orders.

Both orders are ways of helping to keep families together safely after care proceedings.

The webinar followed recent publication of a Department for Education report by Professor Judith Harwin and Lily Golding from the Centre for Child and Family Justice Research (CFJ) at Lancaster University.

The research, which recommended a major overhaul of the current system, charted parents’ experiences of a supervision order for the first time and of care proceedings and care orders at home for the first time since the Children and Families Act, 2014.

The webinar, geared at setting out a reform agenda inspired by Professor Harwin’s research, was hosted by CFJ and the Public Law Working Group (PLWG) on supervision orders, set up by the President of the Family Division.

Attendees came from England and Wales, and included all tiers of the judiciary, Children’s Services, Cafcass, parents, government officials, and members of the press.

The webinar heard powerful first-hand accounts from parents on their experiences of the system and recommendations for change.

The President of the Family Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane, provided his reflections on the reform agenda while Professor Harwin summarised the key research findings and opportunities and challenges in achieving change. The President congratulated Lancaster University for ‘proving itself once again a centre of excellence in picking the right topic when no-one else has and producing such a rich and clear report’.

High Court Judge and Co-Chair of the PLWG Supervision Order group, Mr Justice Michael Keehan, detailed the timetable for a consultation in England and Wales on the forthcoming draft PLWG supervision order report and best practice guidance. Both will be informed by the research from Professor Harwin and Lily Golding.

At the event a new PLWG sub-group, looking to make care proceedings more humane and accessible, was formally announced. The recent report of the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care endorsed the recommendation in our report calling for this.

The event was recorded and is available on the website of the Centre for Child and Family Justice Research and here: https://youtu.be/p8L_d4cRuPs

Professor Harwin said: “Our research has filled a major gap in understanding parents’ experience of care proceedings, supervision orders and care orders at home. Through our extensive engagement with policy-makers in family justice and children’s services, the judiciary, directors of children’s services in England and Wales and parents, we have been able to ensure our research messages have maximum impact.

“Keeping families together is a major plank of government policy. It is every bit as important after care proceedings as before. It is clear from the numbers of people who attended the webinar that there is massive interest in this agenda. Parents are ambitious for reform. The sector needs to be equally ambitious to help achieve sustainable reunification.”

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