In public law proceedings involving children the interests of the child are represented by a Children’s Guardian. Here two guardians share some of their tips.
10 tips from 2 Guardian Angels
1. All cases involving children are difficult to deal with on their individual facts. But some do affect you more than others. When dealing with such a case, put yourself in the child’s shoes and focus on what they suffered and what you can do to help with that. Then everything else pales beside that; the hard time you might get from the parents’ representatives when you’re giving evidence or criticism from the judge.
2 Maintain contact with colleagues. Increasingly we work remotely. Cafcass encourages us to work from home which can be very solitary. We’ve lost the sense of camaraderie there used to be. There’s no chance to debrief. There’s no opportunity for personal contact until you go to court and spot a colleague. Make use of those opportunities when you get them. Recently a colleague’s mother died, at one time I would have seen her at the office, talked about it over lunch, maybe. Now people deal with life events via email. It’s not healthy. So I called her. It was better than a text or email, at least.
4. Talk to people. Isolation takes its toll when you constantly work from home. The effects are gradual but they’re there. You start to get sick of your own home. Guardians have increasingly heavy case loads, as do social workers. And we never talk about the impact of, not only the number of cases but also the type of work we do. Removing babies from parents, for example, is never easy but we’re expected to do it week in week out without ever processing it or talking it over.
5 Stop pretending you’re alright all the time.
6. As far as possible, avoid work emails over the weekend.
7. Dress smartly for court. It makes you feel confident. You look and feel more professional. Wear heels.
8. On a practical note, carry snacks in your bag when you go to court. You could be waiting around for hours in a building which has nowhere to even get a drink.
9. Always go to the toilet before giving evidence! If you’re caught short, you’ll feel uncomfortable and you won’t give your best evidence.
10. Make sure your legal representative treats you to a gin&tonic after a difficult case!!!