Children’s Guardians body and Cafcass in dispute over website content

A row has broken out between Nagalro, the professional association for Family Court Advisers, Children’s Guardians and Independent Social Workers, and Cafcass over the information on the latter’s website.

Nagalro claimed that the Cafcass’ website contains “inaccurate information” that appeared “to dilute the role of the Children’s Guardian and minimise their legal obligations”. Cafcass refutes the claim.

The professional association argued that recent judgments had reinforced its view that children’s interests were being "compromised". It pointed to:

  • Leicestershire County Council v AB & Ors [2018] EWFC 58 (31 August 2018). In this case, the judge was not able to rely on the evidence of the Children’s Guardian, Nagalro said.
  • R v A Local Authority & Others [2019] EWFC 49 (Fam) where the Children Guardian’s appointment was terminated for an abdication of her responsibility as the Children’s Guardian and acting contrary to the interests of the child, the association said.

Nagalro criticised a page on the Cafcass website that explains to parents the role of the Children’s Guardian in care proceedings.

It said it had written to the interim Chief Executive of Cafcass at the time, setting out its concerns; “particularly that the information does not accurately reflect the legal powers and duties of the guardian and that it may impede guardians in carrying out a thorough investigation on behalf of the children whose rights and interests they represent.

It contrasted the information with the Gov.uk website, “which explains the Children’s Guardian’s role accurately and in plain English” and suggested that this should replace the Cafcass publication.

Nagalro said it was “disappointed” that it had received a reply from Cafcass declining to change its website content.

The professional body said it was calling on Cafcass to review its policies “in the light of the evidence of the service failings revealed by recent court judgements and to provide accurate information to the public and practitioners.

“The powers and duties of the Children’s Guardian are clearly set out in the Children Act 1989 and the associated Family Proceedings Court rules and are designed to ensure that Children’s Guardians are able to exercise the full extent of the legal powers available to them in order to safeguard each child’s welfare.”

In a statement Cafcass said: “Cafcass is disappointed to learn of this release, which we believe is a misrepresentation of our ongoing discussions with Nagalro over the content on our website. Contrary to what Nagalro has stated, Cafcass is actively considering our current content on the role of the guardian. Cafcass recognises that the guardian is the independent voice of the child in court. As with all our content, information on our website must be clear and accessible, particularly for those children and families facing care proceedings who are at a critical point in their lives.”

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