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The Safeguarder Service

 

The Safeguarder Service used to be known as the Court Welfare Service. The English equivalent is called CAFCASS.

 

The role of the Safeguarder is primarily to promote the interests of children involved in family court proceedings and to ensure that the children’s views are heard. If requested by the Court, the Safeguarder Service will investigate any dispute about children.

 

As part of every investigation, the Safeguarder Service will interview the parties and make enquiries of all the relevant authorities including Social Services and the Police.

 

The individual Safeguarder in any particular case will decide whether the children should be interviewed. The general principle is that children from around the age of 10 and above will normally be interviewed to ascertain their views. Depending upon the circumstances, the views of a sensible mature child will be a major factor in determining the outcome of a particular case.

 

Any referral to the Safeguarder Service can take several months to complete assuming that a full report is necessary. Much of the work of the Safeguarder Service is an attempt to find a settlement acceptable to both parties and in the best interests of the children. If an agreement is reached along the way then the Safeguarder can write to the parties and their Advocates setting out the terms of the agreement. The whole process is then short circuited and a Consent Order will be presented to the Court for approval.

 

If this cannot be done then a detailed report is prepared. This report may be anything from 15 to 25 pages or possibly longer. The report will set out the background of the case, the views of the parties and any other relevant individuals and also the views of the child dependent upon his age and maturity. The report will include a detailed analysis of the Welfare Checklist as set out in The Children (Guernsey & Alderney) Law 2008 as it applies to the facts of the particular case. The report will conclude with a detailed recommendation as to what the Safeguarder believes is in the best interests of the child.

 

Once the Safeguarder's report has been completed then it is filed at Court and served upon the parties and their advocates. If the parties are still in dispute having considered the recommendations of the Safeguarder’s report then the case is listed for a trial. The Safeguarder would normally attend that hearing at which witnesses are called by the parties. The Court will then make a decision on the basis of what is in the best interests of the children applying the Welfare Checklist.

 

In practice, it is very unusual for the Court to ignore the recommendations of the Safeguarder Service but there are occasions when this occurs and the ultimate decision always lies with the Court.

 

The contact details for the Safeguarder Service are as follows:

 

Safeguarder Service

1 Court Row

St Peter Port

Guernsey

GY1 2PD

 

Telephone: 01481 743700

Fax: 01481 721883

Email: mary.fuller@gov.gg

 

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