My heart sank last week with Barnardo's calling for the speeding-up of care proceedings. So it was good to read a very sensible and well-informed piece in the Guardian by Leslie Baker, a family court magistrate ("Decisions on care orders are too sensitive to be given a fixed deadline" Friday 20 August 2010).
Baker rightly points out that the family courts do not simply grant a care order because a local authority has asked for one. The process involves the careful gathering of evidence and informed decision-making. The quicker this can be done the better, but some cases are very complex and cannot be rushed.
And the article reminds us that the family court can only function as quickly as key agencies, such as children's social care and CAFCASS, can undertake the work necessary to inform the decision. As Baker points out these agencies are under unprecedented stress, due to staff shortages and increased work since the Baby Peter tragedy.
Speeding-up the proceedings without resourcing these agencies more effectively would be bound to result in miscarriages of justice and in the courts failing to act in the best interests of the child.