Keeping families together: the role of the court in reunification
5th May 2020
A new working party to carry out the first review of supervision orders since 1989
Professor Judith Harwin (Lancaster University) and Mr Justice Keehan have established a multidisciplinary sub-group of the Public Law Working Group with its first meeting scheduled for 11th May. Authorised by the President of the Family Division, the working party will undertake a review of practice, statutory guidance, regulation and the law on supervision orders.
Central questions for consideration are:
A] what is the role of the court in child reunification?
B] given that a proportion of children return home, can more cases be diverted from court altogether?
C] what is the contribution of supervision orders? Can they be strengthened?
The working party is expected to identify practical remedies and to produce a report.
There is urgency to this working party. Supervision orders have not been reviewed since their enactment in 1989. Recent research from Professor Judith Harwin et al (2019) has found that 20% nationally are return to court within 5 years for further care proceedings (see here for more details). The research also found significant and unexplained regional variation in the use of supervision orders and care orders. The report Clear Blue Water by Isabelle Trowler, the Chief Social Worker, raises important questions about the possibility of diverting more cases from court altogether. There is little information on care orders as to which children are returned home on care orders and their outcomes. Members of the working party are ideally placed to bring their expertise to these questions. The initial membership includes the Chief Social Worker, the CEO of Cafcass and CEO of Cafcass Cymru, representatives from the Department for Education, Ministry of Justice, the Welsh government, Directors of Children’s Services, the Association of Lawyers for Children, the judiciary and the CEO of Family Rights Group. Practitioner networks will be consulted and the views of parents will be essential. The first meeting will review membership and a full list of names will be published.
For more details contact Judith Harwin (firstname.lastname@example.org).