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Family law reform proposals weaken safeguards for children

Nagalro, the professional association for court guardians, has welcomed the government’s commitment to reducing delay in the family justice system but warns that it risks harming children’s interests by ill-thought out change.

 

Ann Haigh, chair of Nagalro said: “We support the drive to establish a more coherent interdisciplinary family justice system where services work together more effectively, as long as it does not lead to a lesser service for children.”

Pressures on the family justice system have been exacerbated by the recent large increase in care proceedings cases brought by Local Authorities. The increase indicates that many children suffer abuse and neglect in their own families and need to be protected through care proceedings. Court scrutiny is the best protection for these children and it is vital that this safeguarding system is not dismantled.

Ann Haigh added: “A six month limit is simply not workable without an increase in resources at the front line to cope with demand. A rigid timescale will work against the interests of justice and children’s rights. Social workers and children’s guardians will be criticised when unrealistic deadlines are not met, but it is children who will suffer when wrong decisions are made on insufficient grounds.”

Nagalro also states that it agrees with the Norgrove enquiry’s view on shared parenting. Courts already take very seriously the need for children to have continuing relationships with both parents. Current legislation supports this principle. The paramount welfare of the child must remain the overriding consideration when making decisions. According to Nagalro, it would be a retrograde step to bring in legislative change that will increase conflicts about children.


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