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Consultation held on short Social Work Evidence Template for use in urgent hearings

A consultation is being held on a proposed short Social Work Evidence Template (SWET) for use in urgent hearings, as well as an updated version of the full SWET.

The introduction of a SWET for urgent applications, addressing the reasons for the urgency and the legal test for removal (in advance of the full SWET,  to then be completed for the CMH), was among the recommendations of June 2019 report of the President of the Family Division’s Public Law Working Group.

The Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) said that in recent weeks a small group of representatives from local authority social work and legal teams, Cafcass and the judiciary had shared experiences and views which had then fed into an updated version of the full SWET and the first draft of the proposed interim SWET.

Wider views about these two draft documents are now being sought:

ADCS said the deadline for feedback is close of play on Friday 18 September 2020.

The original SWET was introduced in summer 2014 and subsequently updated in 2016 with the aim of providing clear and analytical material to the courts.

The Public Law Working Group, led by Mr Justice Keehan, said in its report:

The social work evidence in support

171. The SWET is now widely but not universally used. It has been amended locally in some areas. It is recognised that there has been considerable work done in many local authorities to improve the overall quality of the evidence provided to the court and that statements in many cases are of a high standard. The areas in which shortcomings are identified in the paragraphs that follow highlight gaps which are seen in practice.

172.The SWET/other initial social work statement in support of an urgent application seeking removal frequently contains little or insufficient evidence of the urgency and why/how the legal test for removal is met. Where an urgent application is made, the focus should be on these issues. We recommend a separate short SWET for completion in support of an urgent application, addressing these crucial issues. This would not replace or obviate the need for the full SWET to be completed for the CMH. Where an urgent application is supported by a full SWET, the issues relevant to the urgent application should be addressed in detail.

173. Information is often repeated as between the SWET, assessment reports and a separate chronology. Common gaps in the SWET/initial social work statement include evidence of:

i. the pre-proceedings assessments undertaken, with analysis of the local authority’s position in consequence (rather than repetition of the content of the assessment);

ii. the support provided to the family and why they have not achieved their goal;

iii. whether an FGC or equivalent has taken place (including the plan arising from the meeting), with the reason if not;

iv. previous proceedings concerning the child;

v. where a child has been the subject of s 20/ s 76 accommodation, an explanation of the circumstances (including the duration, how agreement was given and the actions taken by the local authority during the period of accommodation);

vi. the view of the IRO (which is reported by the social worker rather than provided directly by the IRO);

vii. in respect of newborn babies: (1) the work done with the family pre-birth; (2) the basis upon which any other children have been removed and why the circumstances remain relevant; (3) the placement options considered to keep mother and/or father and baby together, and (4) why separation of mother and/or father and baby is necessary.

174.The working group recommends revision of the SWET generally and to address these shortcomings.”

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