example is medical treatment).... The new scheme will enable such issues to come before the courts whenever there is good reason to believe that the child’s welfare will benefit.”447
Other powers of the court
3.126Before the 1989 Act, the court could, of its own volition, make a supervision or care order if there were “exceptional circumstances making it desirable that the child should be under the supervision of an independent person”.448 Such provisions failed to reflect the different purposes for which supervision orders were made; namely, those in favour of local authorities where the purpose was to protect the children from harm, and those in favour of a welfare or probation officer where the purpose was to give short-term help to the parents to cope with their separation or divorce, and to facilitate co-operation between them in the future.449 The 1989 Act clarifies the situation by giving the court a choice between making a “section 37 direction” to the local authority and a “family assistance order” to serve the two different purposes.
Family Assistance orders
3.127The purpose of the order is “to formalise the involvement of a welfare officer for a short period in helping the family to overcome the problems and conflicts associated with their separation or divorce”.450 It is available in any family proceedings whenever the court has power to make a section 8 order, whether or not such an order has been made.451 It can be made only by the court acting upon its own motion. The parties may, however, request the court to make an order during the course of the proceedings.452
3.128The order requires either a probation officer or an officer of the local authority to be made available to “advise, assist and (where appropriate) befriend anyone named in the order”.453 The persons who may be named are the child, his parents or guardians, anyone with whom the child is living, or anyone in whose favour a contact order is in force. The court must be satisfied that “the circumstances of the case are exceptional” and that everyone named in the order other than the child consents to it.454
3.129The officer only has power to refer to the court the question of whether a section 8 order which is in force should be varied or discharged.455 Any question
447 Law Com No 172, paragraph 4.41.
448 For example, Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, section 44 (1).
449 Law Com No 172, paragraph 5.12.
450 Ibid at paragraph 5.19.
451 Section 16(1).
452 According to Bromley, op cit at 373. It would seem then that the parties cannot apply to court solely for a family assistance order.
453 Section 16(1)(2).
454 Section 16(3).
455 Section 16(6).