The findings of the feasibility study led by Dr Karen Broadhurst of the University of Manchester into recurrent care proceedings, a research project funded by the Nuffield Foundation, has received a great deal of media attention over the past few days,. At its heart is a potential to bring about a meaningful change for parents and children involved in care proceedings.
The study raises an issue which is likely to be well known to most practitioners – where there are repeat care applications concerning the same family, those applications are often made in very quick succession. There are vulnerable mothers who can become trapped in a cycle of care proceedings where children are repeatedly removed from their care with insufficient time in-between proceedings to demonstrate a change.
The study found that in cases where there had been recurrent care proceedings, the average gap between the sets of proceedings was as little as 93 weeks.
The team identify important practice and policy implications from the study. One in particular is the need to identify the treatment recommendations made in care proceedings and make those recommendations happen for parents.
When representing a parent in care proceedings, there is often find a difficulty with putting into place that which has been recommended to bring about change for a parent. For example, in a set of care proceedings there may be a recommendation that a mother needs to develop insight through a form of therapy. Waiting lists for NHS referrals to therapy are extremely long, parents will often not be able to afford to see a therapist privately, and there may be a recommendation for a form of therapy with a specific focus, such as CBT or specialist trauma therapy.
The study identifies that there have been a number of grassroot initiatives in particular Local Authorities to tackle this problem – hopefully the study will enable such initiatives to be readily available across the country. It will be a welcome change if the study can ensure that parents are given an opportunity to access the practical support needed to effect change.
A summary of the study published in Family Law can be found here.