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New family justice pilot launches in attempt to avert the need for care proceedings

Dorset Council and local agencies will partner to trial new proposals from the government’s response to the Care Review recommendations.

15/02/24

New family justice pilot launches in attempt to avert the need for care proceedings

The 15-month Dorset pilot brings together families, Dorset Council, partners agencies, local services, and the Dorset Family Court to create the conditions for families to get the help they and their children need at an earlier stage.

It is hoped that the pilot will allow families to understand and address social workers’ concerns and have their voices heard, while allowing practitioners to feel equipped to work in an effective way with families.

The pilot commences with families with experience of the child welfare system sitting down with social workers, senior managers, judges and others working in the local family justice area, to identify what’s working well in Dorset, but also what needs to improve. All involved, then working collaboratively to identify priorities and to learn and review, adapt and redesign policies, procedures and practices.

Welcoming the pilot, Sir Andrew McFarlane (pictured), President of the Family Division of the High Court of England & Wales, said the aims of the pilot are consistent with the recommendations of the Public Law Working Group report, a collaborative piece of work by professionals from all sectors working on child protection cases in the Family Justice System.

“I am glad that the messages in the report are being put into effect on the ground in Dorset. It is my earnest hope that we will begin to see a real improvement in the system’s ability to address the needs of the children and families at the centre of these important cases.”

The Dorset pilot is part of a wider ‘Reimagining pre-proceedings’ project, which aims to create system change by implementing, and embedding in pre-proceedings work with children and families, learning from the Care Crisis Review and other key reports. The project is funded by a major three-year grant from The Legal Education Foundation.

Cathy Ashley, Chief Executive, at Family Rights Group, which said the pilot is necessary due to rising numbers of young people entering the care system.

“At a time when record numbers of children are in the care system, the Dorset pilot presents a unique opportunity to help safely avert the need for care proceedings by supporting the child welfare and family justice system to deliver early, effective partnership working with children and families.

Theresa Leavy, Executive Director for People – Children, at Dorset Council, said they were “delighted” to be the pilot area.

“We are looking forward to working within the broader systems our families and children experience, boosting collaboration, focusing on people’s strengths and restoring relationships.”

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