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New survey supports recommendations for a review of supervision orders in care proceedings

According to a new survey, nine out of ten professionals think standalone supervision orders should continue to be an option in care proceedings.

A key reason for this was the need for a proportionate order between a care order and no order when children were returning home at the end of proceedings in which the threshold for a care or supervision order had been established.

Supervision orders are one of the options available to courts hearing care proceedings if they are satisfied that the grounds for a care or supervision order exist. The order places a child under the supervision of the local authority which then has a duty to ‘advise, assist and befriend’ the child.

Previous research by Lancaster University has raised questions about the effectiveness of standalone supervision orders, and identified varying practice across regions. Meanwhile, the Public Law Working Group – which was set up by the President of the Family Division to investigate steep rises in public law cases – recommended in its recent report that the government should review supervision orders with the aim of providing ‘a more robust and effective form of a public law order’.

A total of 291 professionals and 10 parents took part in the new survey, carried out by Nuffield Family Justice Observatory between 15 February and 8 March 2021. The majority of professional respondents (90%) thought that supervision orders should be retained but half of those think some changes are needed to make them more effective, supporting the Public Law Working Group’s recommendations for a review.

Overall, responses to the survey reflected previous research regarding the wide variation in practice, the management of supervision orders once proceedings are over, and the support provided under them. Concerns about the effectiveness of supervision orders were also reflected.

“The Nuffield Family Justice Observatory is committed to holding up a mirror to practice in the family justice system. For some time questions have been raised about the effectiveness and value of supervision orders. Respondents to this survey highlighted many of the problems. However, there was also strong support for retaining supervision orders if these problems can be addressed.”

Lisa Harker, director of the Nuffield FJO