NEW national standards designed to advise court welfare officers on Family Court procedures have been released by the Home Office.
The standards, which come into effect on 1 January 1995, are aimed at providing "best practice" guidelines for individual probation areas.
Published for the first time, the new standards focus on the needs of children and aim to streamline service in key areas, such as advising courts, preparation of welfare reports, mediation and resolution of disputes, and measuring the output of work.
The standards will also be directed towards parties to proceedings and children and their legal representatives, probation committees or boards, central government, courts, and other statutory and voluntary agencies in the family justice arena.
The vice chair of the Solicitors Family Law Association, Lace Mawer partner Nigel Shepherd, comments: "Obviously the SFLA welcomes the guidelines which will help court welfare officers focus on producing a concise and objective report."
"One of the major concerns of the family practitioner in the past has been what might be called 'woolly' reporting," he says. "The guidelines do make it clear that wherever possible court welfare officers should make specific recommendations to the court and that is something which, from the practitioners point of view, is very welcome."