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Family Rights Group secures grant to improve early work with families and avert care proceedings

A charity is to develop an approach to improve early and pre-proceedings work with families, designed to keep children safely in their families and avoid care proceedings, after winning a three-year grant from The Legal Education Foundation.

Family Rights Group (FRG) said its work would promote, support the implementation of, and embed the key policy and practice messages regarding pre-proceedings work with families arising from the Care Crisis Review, the guidance produced by the Public Law Working Group set up by the President of the Family Division, as well as relevant academic and voluntary sector research.

The group will work closely with the judiciary, practitioners, social care leaders, and others to develop an approach leading to a re-emphasis on early work and partnership with families and helping to divert cases safely away from court.

Part of its plan includes working with a small number of local authorities and the judiciary, engaging with decision-makers and practitioners. The FRG said that the engagement would facilitate change through activities that cross "professional, team, hierarchy and geographical boundaries".

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Information learnt from the work will be disseminated for local agencies and multi-agency partnerships, including local family justice boards.

An academic evaluation of the approach FRG develops and the impact it makes will also be funded by the grant. This will be led by Caroline Thomas, Independent Researcher and Honorary Research Fellow, University of Stirling.

Caroline Lynch, Principal Legal Adviser at Family Rights Group, said that other reviews, research and best practice guidance had shown that early, effective partnership working with children and families was crucial in keeping children safe and averting the need for care proceedings.

"The challenge however is implementing those messages and creating system change," she said.

Lynch added: "This three-year funding from the Legal Education Foundation is a unique opportunity to support the child welfare and family justice system in tackling that challenge, and to do so through co-production with families."

The project has the endorsement of both Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division and Mr Justice Keehan, Chair of the Public Law Working Group. 

Adam Carey

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