With Brexit looming and a rise in the number of care applications, the issue of international assessments has a sharper focus. It is time for a protocol on international kinship assessments which will significantly aid in a more robust case management.
A protocol promotes best practice and aids in a better understanding of where the delays occur in cases.
The protocol could include guidance as to what can be done at the pre-proceedings stage to make referrals for assessments of proposed carers.
Within proceedings, standard directions could be formulated.
In my experience, I have found the following practical points helpful:
- Make a request through the central authority (ICACU) as to whether it is permissible to send a social worker over to carry out an assessment. Responses from the central authority may take 4 to 6 weeks.
- To explore at an early stage the option of getting the relevant family member to travel to the UK for assessment.
- If the proposed carer can travel to the UK for fuller assessment, the local authority to give specific consideration as to whether they are prepared to fund travel fare, accommodation and day-to-day transport costs in the UK for the purposes of assessment, and whether an intensive assessment can be undertaken.
- To set out clearly in the referral to CFAB the areas to be covered in assessment and to provide an agreed case summary. Send CFAB any previous viability assessment and with key parts translated into the relevant foreign language.
- Prompt requests for police and social checks from the foreign state through the Central Authority and/or CFAB, and ensure the proposed carer undergoes medical checks if a special guardianship order is pursued. CFAB should also be instructed to arrange a home visit and shorter assessment of the carer’s home conditions.
- The case management order should set out a timetable to challenge any negative viability or full assessment and make directions ensuring translation of any key documents/assessments for the proposed foreign carer.
Finally, I would encourage local authorities and/or Cafcass to gather and share a database of useful contacts, and experience with other jurisdictions in terms of their expectations of how assessments of their nationals should be conducted and whether the foreign court will recognise UK family court orders.