The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has published a best practice guide for use by all professionals involved with children and families pre-proceedings and in preparation for applications made under section 31 of the Children Act 1989.
The guide gives practical advice on the various stages that need to be undertaken pre-proceedings including meetings, assessments, joint working, and completion of documentation including a section 31 application. It gives examples of best practice, document templates, clarification on the roles of those involved, and directs readers towards more detailed guidance on specific issues. The guide is also intended to give those working in the field an idea of where they fit into the bigger picture and the role of others within the system.
The best practice guide is produced by the MoJ's Care Proceedings Programme and is based on the findings of inter-agency workshops. The guide will complement the Statutory Guidance and Public Law Outline and has been endorsed by the Family Law Bar Association and the Law Society.
Although the guide is not Statutory Guidance and has no legal status, various experts in their respective fields have reviewed it before it was finalised.
Specifically the guide is expected to be most useful for: local authority managers and social workers, lawyers for local authorities and for parents, Children's Guardians, lawyers for children, HMCS court staff and legal advisers, the judiciary and expert assessors who may be instructed pre-proceedings and within proceedings.
The publication of the guide comes after Lord Laming made his recommendations in his report The Protection of Children in England: A progress report, published in March 2009.
The Welsh Assembly Government has put in place a programme of measures to strengthen arrangements to safeguard children. These include new arrangements to establish teams to provide intensive support to families whose children may be subject of a care order.