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About this book

How do you apply the principles, structures and processes of the law to everyday practice? Drawing on a wealth of contemporary case examples, this handy pocket book demystifies the legislation on child protection and demonstrates the practical duties and responsibilities of professionals working within this complex area.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

Abstract
The origins of child care law date back to the late sixteenth century. The Poor Laws gave power to the boards of Poor Law guardians to provide for the destitute, including children. The Prevention of Cruelty to and Protection of Children Act 1889 was the first statute to impose criminal penalties for the mistreatment of children. Although the language used in child protection has evolved over the years, much of our current legislation has retained its origins from early legislation. The Children and Young Persons Act 1933 embodied many of the principles established in 1889; schedule 1 of the Act lists all the offences against children and, despite subsequent legislative reform in this area, it is still often referred to in identifying risk. The term ‘boarding out’ has its origins in nineteenth-century practice whereby children were ‘boarded out’ with other families within the community – it is only relatively recently that we have replaced the term ‘boarding-out visits’ with ‘statutory visits’, even though the duties and responsibilities of the Poor Law guardians were taken over by the local authorities in 1929.
Kim Holt

2. 1 Child care law and practice

Abstract
The CA89 is arguably the most innovative, comprehensive and far-reaching reform of child law that has ever been enacted. It is a comprehensive piece of legislation that consolidates and integrates almost all the preceding legislation relating to children. The Act integrated public and private law provisions for the first time and removed the link with criminal law for young people (s. 90(1) CA89). This was subsequently changed with the introduction of s. 12(7) Crime and Disorder Act 1998 which creates a different route into care in respect of a child under the age of ten who has committed an act that, had they been aged ten or over, would have constituted an offence, or where there has been a failure to comply with any requirements made under a child safety order (s. 11 Crime and Disorder Act 1998; s. 60 Children Act 2004 (CA04)).
Kim Holt

3. 2 Decision-making, assessment and working with others

Abstract
Social work practice is premised on the discretion and professional judgment of social workers (Munro, 2011). Indeed, the administration of children’s social care rests on the basis of decision-making in complex cases. Decisions are based on discretion and judgment – when undertaking assessments, where decisions about resources are being made, or when and where contact between parents and their children should take place and whether this should be supervised or not. In brief, social workers and their managers in a variety of contexts make decisions that significantly affect people’s lives. Indeed, in child protection social work, they can lead to the altering of people’s status .
Kim Holt

4. 3 Emergency applications/short-term measures

Abstract
Achieving consensual solutions in order to prevent children from coming into care is desirable when appropriate and safe to do so. However, there are times when the local authority must seek an order to remove a child who ‘is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm’ (s. 31(2)(1) CA89). There has been a sharp rise in the number of care proceedings reported since 2009. This sharp increase has been largely attributed to the ‘Baby Peter Effect’ (Gillen, 2009) and there is no doubt that the death of baby Peter Connelly, in the context of a child welfare culture characterized by ‘error and blame’ (White and Broadhurst, 2009), will have served to resolve many cases of children on the edge of care.
Kim Holt

5. 4 Care and supervision

Abstract
Historically, individuals have sought to resolve their disputes by turning to the courts – primarily to have an arbitrator to listen to their case and to obtain damages for any loss suffered; alternatively, to be able to formally defend any action taken against an individual before a decision is made. Civil and criminal law are significantly different in terms of their aims and procedures. Civil law concerns the relationship between individuals and individuals, or individuals and corporations – examples of civil law are contract, employment, tort or family law. The evidential burden of proof is different to criminal law. In civil law the applicant only has to satisfy the court on the balance of probabilities for a decision to be found in their favour, whilst in a criminal court where an individual’s liberty may be at stake the evidential burden is considerably higher and the applicant (the state) has to prove all elements of the offence, satisfying the court beyond reasonable doubt. In criminal law the relationship is clearly different in so far as it is the state taking action against an individual.
Kim Holt

6. 5 Policies, protocols and procedures: revolutionary change

Abstract
Nationally the number of care applications continues to rise at a time where already limited resources are being targeted within formal pre-proceedings protocols aimed at achieving consensual solutions wherever possible to avoid cases going to court. The impetus for attempting to divert some cases where appropriate and safe to do so away from court is desirable in achieving positive outcomes for children and reducing delay. However, despite the rhetoric of the need for more direct engagement with families, there appears to be no relief from the procedural and managerial processes set within a context of public sector cuts affecting all professionals tasked with protecting children. The issues faced by the family justice system are complex, requiring professional skill and judgment when families turn to it in times of great stress and when they are in crisis
Kim Holt

7. 6 Preparing to go to court

Abstract
As Munro suggests above, there will always be accountability in social work practice and there is no doubt that recording provides evidence to the organization that practitioners have complied with organizational goals and expectations. Furthermore, keeping a record of involvement with the family will provide evidence in other contexts – for example, conferences, reviews, pre-proceedings protocols and court – of the nature and level of contact that has taken place, giving important details and analysis of any involvement. Whilst the organizational culture may require boxes to be ticked, a cut-and-paste culture is not helpful when using recording as the basis of an assessment.
Kim Holt

8. 7 Concluding comments

Abstract
There is no doubt the Family Justice Review, set in train revolutionary changes within family law proceedings. The Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act 2014, has resulted in an unprecedented number of litigants in person attempting to navigate the court system. A significant impact of the changes in response to the availability of legal aid has been the increased security required in courts. The evidence submitted to the Commons Justice Select Committee, who were tasked to examine the impact of changes introduced by LASPO in 2014, has failed to change policy in this area.
Kim Holt
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