The Transparency of the Care System


The BBC programme Panorama last month ran a story "I want my baby back", criticising the workings of the family courts and the lack of transparency in the system. The programme focussed on the stories of families whose children had suffered injuries that Social Care claimed were not accidental and alleged were caused intentionally by the families. This resulted in many children being removed from the care of their families permanently and placed in foster care or adopted. Panorama looked at a number of cases where, much after the event, it became clear the children in question suffered from rickets, a vitimin D deficiency, which would account for the injuries they suffered.

Care Proceedings on a family

This brought into question the transparency of the care system, where cases involving children are private and not subject to media reporting. Reforms are underway to improve transparency so that families can feel secure in a system that has such power over their children.

Matters were not helped with the suggestion from Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming, who said families should attempt to flee abroad to avoid the court process where possible, alleging the system was unfair and did not lead to a fair trial.

This suggestion concerns Helen Doolan, solicitor within the Simpson Millar LLP Care team, "Whilst we appreciate that care proceedings can be difficult for parents, who feel they are treated as liars and constantly under suspicion, we would never recommend such a drastic move. Parents should always take legal advice from specialist solicitors who are members of the Law Society Children Panel when involved in care proceedings. This is the best way to fight your case and protect the interests of your children. It is our job to help fight to clear your name, challenge the evidence of the Local Authority and seek the return of your children. Fleeing the country will not assist in this and will only lead to further problems in the future. ”

Sir James Mumby, President of the Family Division, gave further direction in his recent Practice Guidance publication in January 2014 by further clarifying situations in which judgments from care proceedings can be published. This is intended to be a starting point with further reforms in the future months.

The aim is to ensure the public has complete faith in the family law system, Helen welcomes this, "It is important that parents feel the system is under scrutiny from all sources, to reduce the ill feeling towards the secretive nature of the courts. It is imperative to remember however, that historically the privacy of the system is in place to protect the interests of children and safeguard those involved in care proceedings from being identified. It is essential that any further reforms still maintain the anonymity of the children the system serves to protect."

Should you be involved in care proceedings or with the Local Authority in any way please call our specialist care team for advice and assistance without obligation.

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