Intermediary & Team Leader, Florence, recently used one of her Volunteering Days to introduce the intermediary role to social work apprentice students at Liverpool John Moores University.
Florence shared a range of strategies to support service users with communication needs during legal proceedings, and gained a lot of insight from a social workers’ perspective, too. Including a fresh perspective on explaining concepts surrounding Parental Responsibility and Threshold to respondents in care proceedings.
In the afternoon, the class attended a talk given by a judge at court. Florence found it very surreal to be in front of a judge with no laptop, no person to explain things to, with the opportunity just to listen. She even asked a question without saying ‘Your Honour’ first!
Here are some of the things the judge shared with the social work students, which really got Florence thinking:
- He described court as a ‘space’ not a ‘place’. Especially after COVID-19, court is a state of mind.
- He noted that court is all about the 3 Fs: Fairness, Finality, and Formality.
- He said that when a case comes to court they will be sifted, and different judges will get given them depending on complexity and seriousness. He then said more private family cases go to magistrates- which was interesting considering how surprised I’d been to be in a public family case in front of magistrates only weeks earlier!
- He told the students to consider the positives and negatives and give credit where it’s due e.g., he’d take a social worker’s recommendations more seriously if they could also talk about the good points, like contact.
- In the morning I’d told the students that the threshold was the list of ‘worries’. In the afternoon the judge said it was ‘allegations’. I’d never really thought before about how we might protect our service users from the word ‘allegations’.
- The judge talked about the times in court when he gets to officially adopt someone into a new family. Sadly, we only ever get to see the hearings where parents find out these orders would be made, I don’t often think about those lovely days where the children get to start a new life.