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The Association of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS) and the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) have launched an updated template for local authority social workers to use when submitting evidence to support an application for a care or supervision order to the courts.
The original Social Work Evidence Template (SWET) was introduced in summer 2014 with the aim of providing consistent, more analytically focused reports to the courts. It was designed to complement other standardised forms required by the Public Law Outline.
The SWET supports professionals to provide clear and analytical material to the court and supports the family justice reforms brought in to avoid unnecessary delays; a growing number of Local Family Justice Boards and local authorities now require its use.
A review of the template and supporting documents was recently undertaken by ADCS and Cafcass, this exercise demonstrated a high level of support for the use of a template, and generated a number of suggestions about further improvements. Although it has not been possible to incorporate all the ideas that were shared, the feedback received from the sector has resulted in:
The accompanying guidance being simplified and incorporated into the template
The templates themselves being simplified and the final analysis template now using the same headings as the basic template
The two relevant welfare checklists being incorporated for ease of reference.
Andrew Webb from ADCS, said:
'This template has been developed to support changes in the family justice system designed to improve the quality and timeliness of decision-making for children by the sector. I am pleased that use of these documents has grown steadily over the last year and that many people from a range of disciplines contributed to reviewing them. ADCS continues to encourage all local authorities to use the templates and to ensure their staff access the training materials that have been developed. We have seen major improvements in the responsiveness of the family justice system over the past couple of years and the SWET provides consistency both for practitioners and courts to support these improvements.'
Anthony Douglas from Cafcass, said:
'The revised national social work evidence template has already helped to raise the standards of social work analysis in family proceedings. This is a vital area of social work practice which can and should make a positive difference to the lives of the most vulnerable children in England and Wales. The new template takes on board comments from the recent consultation and we are committed to continuously growing its relevance and impact.'
David Norgrove, Chair of the Family Justice Board, said:
'The template has helped promote a more analytical and consistent approach, and is proving its value across England and Wales. I commend it strongly.'
The SWET continues to be endorsed by Sir James Munby, President of The Family Division, ADCS and Cafcass.
The new templates should be used in new cases from Monday, 29 February onwards.
The Social Work Evidence Template and Final Statement are available to view and download here.
"A large and important book that should be on the shelf of every family lawyer." Sir James Munby