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child care proceedings – the default position is transparency at all times

11 July 2011

The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) has been the subject of much criticism and pressure in recent years. The latest is the judgment of the High Court. After concerns about the safety of a guardian’s recommendations were brought to the attention of CAFCASS, it negotiated a change of guardian and later obtained the court’s approval. This judgement criticised the process and made it clear that only the court has the power to appoint and remove guardians.

There are further messages applicable to all practitioners: the court was particularly concerned about the lack of transparency in this case. There were times where the parents were unaware of the discussions going on between CAFCASS and the local authority. As ever, in future where there is a difference of opinion, the matter needs to be openly explored. Any meetings at which a family’s future is being decided must be conducted openly and with the parents able to participate.

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