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Draft guidelines published to help improve practice when the state acts to safeguard a baby at birth

Nuffield Family Justice Observatory (Nuffield FJO) has published draft guidelines to help improve practice when the state acts to safeguard a baby at birth. The guidelines are now being tested for feasibility in sites across England and Wales.

When the state intervenes to safeguard a baby at or close to birth, it is traumatic for birth parents and painful for professionals. When the safeguarding action results in parent and baby separation, this can be a life-changing course of action with many inherent and unresolved ethical and practice dilemmas.

Nuffield FJO says that in such circumstances there is a need for more national guidance for professionals working in children's social care, health services and the courts to ensure best practice. In response to that need, Nuffield FJO has published a draft set of best practice guidelines, developed through a collaborative research study involving professionals and parents in eight local authorities and seven corresponding NHS trusts in England and Wales. Part of Nuffield FJO's Born into Care series, the work has been led by the Centre for Child & Family Justice Research at Lancaster University and the Rees Centre at Oxford University.

The draft guidelines aim to deliver better and more consistent practice. They include a series of aspirational statements for each stage of the parents' journey and provide examples of how these statements can be translated into best practice.

The guidelines consider how to overcome challenges at both a strategic level and in frontline practice. They also include examples of innovations from practice drawn from across England and Wales.

The guidelines are being published and tested for feasibility against a backdrop of a rising number of newborn babies being subject to care proceedings in England and Wales – with numbers more than doubling over the last decade.

The intention is for the guidelines to be used as a basis for developing local area action plans and locality specific guidelines, within the context of national guidance*. Between now and August 2022, the participating local authorities and NHS trusts are working with the team to test the feasibility of the guidelines. Findings from this feasibility study will inform a final version of the guidelines, which will be published later in 2022.

For more details, click here. For the draft guidelines themselves, click here.