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1.4.10 Written Statements of Evidence

RELATED PROCEDURE

Care and Supervision Proceedings and the Public Law Outline Procedure

Please see relevant section of Forms Library to access the required template.

AMENDMENT

In September 2016, this guidance was reviewed locally and updated as required.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Purpose of Written Statement
  3. Principles
  4. Layout of the Written Statement
  5. The Required Documents
  6. Consultation
  7. Approval


1. Introduction

Evidence in care proceedings will be in the form of written statements. Social Workers and others will be required to produce written statements, which will be lodged with the Court and distributed to the parties before any hearing. Witness’ may still be cross-examined on their statements and may give other evidence orally if it arises.


2. Purpose of Written Statement

The purpose of the written statement is to:

  1. Adduce evidence of Significant Harm or the likelihood of Significant Harm;
  2. Establish that Part 3 Services or Section 8 Orders are not appropriate or not able to protect the child;
  3. Enable the Court to address the issues raised by the welfare checklist;
  4. Clearly outline the Care Plan for the child including plans for contact;
  5. Establish on this basis that the Order sought is better for the child than no Order at all.


3. Principles

In the revised Public Law Outline, both the filing and service of documents is more focused, with a concentration on what is relevant, central and key, rather than what is peripheral or historical. Local authority materials are expected to be much shorter than previously, and they should be more focused on analysis than on history and narrative. Even if there has been local authority involvement with the family extending over many years, both the social work Chronology and the summary of the background circumstances as set out in the social work statement must be kept appropriately short, focusing on the key significant historical events and concerns and rigorously avoiding all unnecessary detail.

Documents must be recent - restricted to the most recent, limited to those from the last two years. Documents need not be served or listed if they are older than two years before issue of the proceedings, unless reliance is placed on them in the local authority’s evidence.

Documents must be focused and succinct.


4. Layout of the Written Statement

Caption: layout of the written statement
   
1.

The layout of the written statement must conform to the following:

  1. The Front Sheet

    On the first page, the statement should provide the following information:
    • The name of the court dealing with the case;
    • Case number (on transfer, the courts may give an additional number);
    • Child’s name and date of birth;
    • Type of Children Act application and relevant section;
    • The local authority applicant;
    • The respondent parties by name;
    • The name of the author, professional address and telephone;
    • Number;
    • The date and number of statement (it may be one of a series).

All boxes on the front sheet are to be completed.

Completed Family Composition using the genogram. Either use the incorporated genogram or produce a separate document.

Completed significant events chronology and future events chronology.

  1. Family Proceedings

    The face sheet must incorporate a signed declaration that “I.... social worker of.... declare that this statement is true and that I make it knowing it may be placed before the court in these proceedings’.

    Notice also needs to be included regarding the confidential status of the statement.

    Statement of:

    On behalf of:

    No. of Statement:

    Date of Statement:
  2. Author’s Experience

    The statement should begin with a summary of the social worker’s qualifications and relevant experience, for example:

    BA 1985: CQSW 1992
    1998-90: Junior School Teacher
    1992-94: Social Worker.... District Team
    1994-date: Social Worker.... Team

    The basis for the social worker’s knowledge should also be attributed, e.g.:

    “I make this statement based on my direct experience as the child’s social worker since January 1997, and also on previous social work records. In describing recent events, I have drawn on information provided by WPC.... and GP.... “.
Caption: key points table
   
2.
  • The statement must incorporate only what is directly relevant to the case;
  • The statement should set out how the requirements of the Public Law Outline have been met including, where relevant, any pre-proceedings correspondence with the parents under the PLO;
  • The important points should not be obscured by unnecessary detail;
  • When an opinion ix expressed in the statement, particularly in cases of suspected sexual abuse, it must be within the limitations of the social worker's own expertise. If this is exceeded, the social worker may be criticised by the court. The factual basis for any expressed opinion must be clear;
  • The social worker must distinguish:
    • Matters to be described factually as a result of direct observations;
    • His or her opinion and interpretation of behaviour on events observed by the social worker;
    • Matters recorded on the file or told to the social worker by others which are relevant to the case but which the social worker cannot personally verify;
    • The opinion of the social worker for the order being sought and the Care Plan based on the social worker’s overall professional experience.
  • There is a duty on all parties to make full and frank disclosure of all matters relevant to welfare whether these are favourable or adverse to their particular case. This includes the disclosure of information by local authorities to parents, which may assist in rebutting allegations against them;
  • Jargon should not be used. If an acronym is used it should be written out in full first and explain what the acronym is e.g. Police National Computer (PNC) report. After the first time it can be used as an acronym but avoid using too many;
  • Avoid inflammatory comments made by one party about the other. Record what you have seen and what you have heard and what you have done or said. Write the statement in the first person;
  • Garamond 12 pt font should be used. Line spacing of at least 1½ and a blank line must be used between paragraphs. Paragraphs should be justified so that all the words line up on both sides of the page. Statement pages should be single-sided. Paragraphs should be numbered;
  • Repetition of earlier material filed by the authority or by other witnesses or parties must be avoided. Cross-refer where appropriate;
  • Dates should be written in the format of 20 June 2015 NOT 20th June 2015 or 20.06.15.


5. The Required Documents

See also: Care and Supervision Proceedings and the Public Law Outline Procedure.

Caption: the required documents
   
1.

The written statement must accord with the required form for statements and contain the following:

  1. The face sheet;
  2. Family Proceeding Rules 1991 declaration;
  3. Author’s experience.

    (See Section 4, Layout of the Written Statement).

The social work statement is to be limited to the following evidence:

  • Summary:
    • The order sought;
    • Succinct summary of reasons.
  • Threshold:
    • Precipitating events;
    • Background circumstances:
      • Summary of children’s services involvement. This must be cross-referenced to the Chronology and avoid unnecessary repetition of what is already set out in the Chronology. It need be no more than a page or two;
      • Previous court orders and emergency steps;
      • Previous assessments.
    • Summary of harm and / or likelihood of harm.
  • Parenting capacity:
    • Assessment of child’s needs;
    • Assessment of parental capacity to meet needs;
    • Analysis of why there is a gap between parental capacity and the child’s needs;
    • Assessment of other significant adults who may be carers.
  • Child impact:
    • Wishes and feelings of the child(ren);
    • Timetable for the child;
    • Delay and timetable for the proceedings.
  • Early permanence and contact:
    • Parallel planning;
    • Placement options;
    • Contact framework.
  • Case management:
    • Evidence and assessments necessary and outstanding;
    • Case management proposals.
    The local authority materials must be succinct, analytical and evidence-based. Assessment and analysis are crucial. They need to distinguish clearly between what is fact and what is professional evaluation, assessment, analysis and opinion, and between the general background and the specific matters relied on to establish ‘threshold’.

    Threshold Statement

    Careful thought needs to be given to the evidence required to establish ‘threshold’. Voluminous statements will usually not be required. It is not necessary for the court to find a mass of specific facts in order to arrive at a proper threshold finding. The threshold statement can usually be little more than a page, if that.

    For example, in a typical case of chronic neglect:
    • The central core of the statement of threshold need be no more detailed than:
    • The parents have neglected the children. They have:
    • Not fed them properly;
    • Dressed them in torn and dirty clothes;
    • Not supervised them properly;
    • Not got them to school or to the doctor or hospital when needed;
    • Not played with them or talked to them enough;
    • Not listened to the advice of social workers, health visitors and others about how to make things better: and now will not let the social worker visit the children the home (the evidence to support the case being identified by reference to the relevant page numbers in the ‘bundle’ of documents supplied to the court and all parties for use at hearings)”.
  1. The recommendation must be supported by clear reasons for the view especially where this has changed in the course of proceedings. Where this occurs evidence must be presented to the Court of the change in circumstances.

    The recommendation may be:
    • That the Order sought is still required;
    • That an Order is necessary but it is other than that originally sought;
    • That a solution comprising of a package of S8 Orders is suitable;
    • That no Order is now necessary.


6. Consultation

By the time of completing the social worker’s final written statement the Social Worker should be aware of the views of the Children’s Guardian. A difference of opinion with the Children’s Guardian of itself does not require the local authority to change its position before the final hearing.


7. Approval

The written statement must be approved by the Designated Manager (Children’s Social Care).

The report must be submitted to the Legal Section at least 3 days before the statement is due to be filed and served. The original statement must be sent, a faxed copy is not sufficient quality. The report is then checked and filed with the court on Day 1 of the proceedings.

Written statements received from the parties via the Legal Service, should be carefully read and placed on file.

A copy of the written statements must be retained on the child’s file.

Further guidance is available on the Council's Intranet.

End