Exploring the tensions in Public Law Child Care Proceedings: an analysis of the legislative boundaries of decision-making within pre-proceedings protocols and the role of advocacy in promoting justice for families.
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KeywordsPublic Law; Child Care Proceedings; Decision-making; Legislation; Pre-proceedings protocols; Advocacy; Justice; Families;
The University of Bradford theses are licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.
InstitutionUniversity of Bradford
DepartmentFaculty of Social Sciences
This PhD by published work consists of: • 1 single authored monograph; • 1 single authored paper in a refereed journal; • 4 main authored articles in refereed journals; • 3 joint authored articles in refereed journals; • 1 joint authored paper in a non refereed journal; and • 3 joint authored published reports. It covers the period 2009-2014 This thesis and the papers submitted demonstrate my significant contribution to a body of knowledge that provides a rich and unique insight to the development of changes in legislation and protocols in child protection practice. Particular expertise is threefold: the impact on the practice of all professionals involved with vulnerable families and children; the impact on the assessment of risk and working with families and children; and the impact on the ‘timetable for the child’. The publications reflect an examination of pre-proceedings protocols over a 5-year period. Throughout, the work demonstrates a theoretical and practical commitment to fairness and justice for families. The rationale that underpins this thesis is the need to explore the impact of procedural changes to the lives of children and their families. The rhetoric of improving pre-proceedings work in an attempt to divert cases away from court, and to ensure decisions that are made for children are both rigorous and timely, is at odds from the reality of practice on the ground. The recent hegemonic concern with the timetable for the child (Holt and Kelly, 2014) reinforces a change agenda that was ushered in ahead of the Children and Families Act that became law on 22nd April 2014. The President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, has stated that 26 weeks completion time when cases progress to court is ‘a deadline not a target’, reinforcing the message that only a ‘comparatively small number of exceptional cases’ will fall outside it (Munby, 2013:4). This leaves little time for the court to intervene when cases have not been properly progressed at the pre-proceedings stage. The evidence from detailed observations of practice at all levels within pre-proceedings protocols affords an opportunity to send a clear message to legislators, policy makers and practitioners. Front-loading and diverting more cases into pre-proceedings protocols is quite simply a strategic measure to reduce the financial burden away from the courts and to place this elsewhere. Local authorities have child protection systems that are properly designed to support children who are in need of protection, and where it has been decided by professionals from a range of agencies working with families that the risk cannot be managed without the need to seek the involvement of the court, there should be no further delay. My concern is that in many instances children are already left holding the risk for too long. The question must be raised as to why, when a range of professionals working with the child and their family make the decision that an application to court should be made, a system that purports to hold children and families at the heart builds in further delay.