Child abuse at its worst – children in England are forced to remain in abusive homes while awaiting long court decisions in their living arrangements, according to the BBC. This is putting abused children at risk more than ever with a delayed court system endangering their well-being. It’s a disturbing reality for much of Britain’s innocent youth.
Helpless children throughout England and Wales are having their worlds torn apart by being forced to stay in the very homes that harm them. It’s a real problem with real consequences.
The children’s charity, Barnardo’s, wants to change the 57-week court delay to 30-weeks. County courts in England and Wales take an average of 57-weeks to make a ruling decision on care and supervision orders while the helpless children are likely to wait inside their abusive homes during the painfully slow process at a time when they need the most security and care in their lives.
In the family courts, decisions averaged 45-weeks.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said the government was “committed to reducing unnecessary delays”.
Barnardo’s explained that court data revealed there were 50% more unresolved care proceedings cases at the end of 2009 than at the end of 2008.
Abused Children Not in Secure Environment
Martin Narev, Barnardo’s chief executive, said instability had made its way through family courts, saying “additional, sequential expert assessments being routinely ordered”.
“This, paired with the evident lack of credence given to social workers, is causing unnecessary delay,” he told the BBC.
“The courts need urgently to reflect on the damage these delays are having on extremely vulnerable children.”
As these abused children remain in abusive homes all over England and Wales, Narev clearly stated that a year of a vulnerable child’s life is “an inordinate amount of time for them to be trapped in desperate limbo, unclear of their future and very possibly at risk”.
“During this time, these children might remain at home with neglectful or abusive birth families or be living in emergency foster care, expected to settle with families they may subsequently have to leave.
“At a time when stable relationships and secure attachments are vital for a child, they are instead engulfed in a period of uncertainty and confusion,” Narev continued.
Unacceptable Conditions for Abused Children in England
County court proceedings in London throughout 2008 and 2009 averaged 65-weeks. Similar proceedings in Humber and South Yorkshire were significantly shorter with 46-weeks.
Any amount of time is too much for Britain’s children to remain in abusive homes over the court system.
These figures only cover cases in the event of supervision and care orders being made, not ones that were refused, resulting in emergency protection for children given and put in secure conditions.
The Ministry of Justice spokesman told the BBC, “The government is clear that every child’s case should be dealt with as quickly as possible to minimize trauma and keep young people safe from harm.”
The British charity said that there needs to be a “radical culture shift in court practice.” They also added government should give “urgent consideration” in a number of areas where the at-risk children are concerned. This would mean setting new limits and ensuring cases involving children under 18 months were complete within 12-weeks and 30-weeks for children older.
A False Sense of Security for England’s Abused and Neglected Children
Director of children’s services at Action for Children, Hugh Thornbery, said there’s “a cause for serious concern” over these abused, neglected, and vulnerable children being left in limbo.
“For children who are unable to stay with their birth families, entering the care system is an extremely uncertain and unsettling time, and it’s critical that their care provision provides them with the stable and secure home environment that they need.
“Being left languishing in emergency foster placements for unknown extended periods of time can only have a detrimental effect on children, and risks giving them a false sense of security at a time when they need stability the most,” he said.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice indicated a family justice review was in the works. 4,000 extra sitting days were added to family courts in 2010 to manage cases.
“The panel leading the review shares Barnardo’s concerns and has met its representatives to discuss suggestions for reform,” the spokesman said.
“We are also exploring proposals to make better use of local performance groups to give local decision makers more ownership of the system, empowering them to tackle the local causes of delay.
“The government is clear that every child’s case should be dealt with as quickly as possible to minimise trauma and keep young people safe from harm.”
A Cry to Help England’s Youth
Children who are abused are forced to suffer more by living in limbo, whether it’s with abusive birth families or a temporary arrangement with an emergency foster family. Either way, England’s neglected youth are placed in an insecure environment, potentially damaging their mental stability and ability to trust others. It’s unfair for children already abused to wait out a court decision in an unhealthy environment when security is needed most.
Barnardo’s is fiercely trying to change what the children of England and Wales are enduring.
To make a donation to this charity or to contact them, visit http://www.barnardos.org.uk/
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Source: BBC News, August 9, 2010
Barnardo’s Children Charity