February 26, 2016 4:44 pm
This week I want to talk to you about Statements or Reports that you may be asked to write. Now, as you probably know, there are more and more parents who go to Court over disputes in relation to their children and these parents go increasingly on their own with little or no legal advice from lawyers.
Parents often want evidence in Court to help support them and to show them in the best light, they want to demonstrate to the Court that they are the right person to care for the children. They may have real problems with their partner or former partner and they may be asking you to write something for Court in support of them and if you’re not careful, this can lead you down some very dangerous tracks and get you into some severe hot water. So what I want to talk to you about is just some things to think about if this arises in your life.
Personal or Professional?
The first thing you need to think about, and the really big thing you need to think about is, are you writing this in a personal capacity or will you be writing this in a professional capacity?
Now sometimes that’s very easy to answer. If you only know the child through your employment or your work, then you will likely be writing it in a professional capacity. But the lines can become really blurred if you know the family, maybe older siblings have been through your setting or you’ve known the family for a long time. They may have been coming into your surgery, or whatever setting you’re in, and they’ve become friends and you may be want to do everything you possibly can to support them. Now if that’s the case, and you’re writing in a personal capacity, then that’s something that you can write your own opinions on and you can say what you actually think about the other partner, but you need to make it really, really clear to the Court that you are writing this in a personal capacity and you’re not writing it in your professional setting or as a professional person.
If you are writing it as a professional person, then you are leaving yourself open to be asked to come to Court to say or to verify what you have said in your statement if the other person doesn’t agree with it and if you write a personal view, and say that it’s a professional view, you can get yourself into real trouble and maybe not just you, but perhaps from your employer as well. Some organisations work really really hard to keep their reputation and it can get you into an awful lot of trouble. So if in doubt, have a chat with the person and just check in what capacity you’re writing it.
Now if you’re writing it as a professional, I suspect that’s probably the way that most of you will write it, I just want to give you some tips so you can think about this when you’re next writing a report; particularly if you don’t do it very often, you probably don’t do it very often, because you probably don’t have a great deal of cause to do so, and it can come as a bit of a shock what the Court will want. Now if there’s a Court Order for it, then the Court Order will tell you what the Judge wants to see. If there isn’t an Order for it, and somebody’s just asked if you could write a report to help them out, and you’re writing it as a professional, then beware of what you are writing and be aware of how you write it.
Make sure that you stick to the facts. Any opinions that you express should be professional and you should as far as possible remain impartial.
In terms of how it’s presented, there is a really good guide on the internet and it will soon be on the Safeguarding Academy site, so as a member you’ll be able to go and collect that from the site and have a read through what is required of you. But as a really general point of view, do it on letter headed paper, say what your qualifications are and say what your role is with the children. Be really clear on that.
So as a really quick recap, if you’re asked to write a report for a parent whose going to Court because of a dispute, think about what capacity you’re writing it in.
If it’s personal, opinions are fine, but say that you are writing it as a friend.
If it’s professional, make sure it’s on letter headed paper, that it remains impartial, that you stick with the facts and that you use letter headed paper and as far as possible, you stick with the rules for writing a report.
If you want any further guidance, then have a look on The Safeguarding Academy.com
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