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Publication - Professor Judith Masson

    Child Protection in Court

    Outcomes for Children

    Citation

    Masson, JM, Dickens, J, Garside, LBE, Bader, KF & Young, J, 2019, ‘Child Protection in Court: Outcomes for Children’. School of Law, University of Bristol

    Abstract

    Child protection in Court: Outcomes for Children reports the findings of the ESRC-funded Outcomes of care proceedings for children before and after care proceedings reform Study 2015-2018 . It examined the impact of major reforms to care proceedings introduced by the Children and Families Act 2014 and the Public Law Outline (PLO) 2014. These aimed to speed up decision-making in care proceedings by imposing a 26 week time limit and restricting the commissioning of expert evidence and the scrutiny of care plans. The study examined the impact of these reforms on the legal process and outcomes for children involved in them. Using a natural experiment, mixed methods design, it compared the process and the outcomes for two samples of children subject to care proceedings: S1 had proceedings in 2009-10, before the reforms, and S2, after, in 2014-15. Children’s outcomes after care proceedings were compared one year after the end of the proceedings, T1; outcomes for S1 were also examined and compared at T2, 5 years after the proceedings. Data on children’s outcomes was sourced from Department for Education administrative records (the Children in Need (CiN) and Looked after Children (CLA) databases, Cafcass e-cms database and their Children’ Social Care case files. Together these provided information about: care careers, including placements and leaving care; being children in need; involved in further family court proceedings; and details, which enabled a researcher-rating of their well-being. The reforms reduced the duration of care proceedings – the average duration was just over the statutory limit but there were also changes to the orders made, with far fewer placement orders and more supervision orders and special guardianship orders. Children placed for adoption were younger and those who left care at the end of proceedings spent less time in care, reducing local authority foster placement costs. The findings on children’s well-being were generally positive after one year; at 5 years the majority of the sample children in local authority care had maintained or improved well-being; well-being scores were less positive for children in parental care, and a quarter of them had entered care. The report contains policy and practice recommendation for courts, local authorities and social workers, and for improving data to capture interactions between care proceedings and children’s social care.

    Full details in the University publications repository