26 Week Care Becoming Reality
31 March 2015 by Ties Bouwmeester
Whilst the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) has admitted that the 26 week time limit is unlikely to be achievable in all cases, the continued fall in time to the conclusion of proceedings is a positive step.
Newly published Government statistics for the Family Court between October and December 2014 show that the average duration of care cases was down to 28.7 weeks. This is a considerable reduction in time compared with an average of 33.6 weeks in the same period in 2013 and 45.4 weeks in 2012. Close to 60% of all care cases were disposed of within 26 weeks and 50% of all cases were disposed of in 25.1 weeks.
The 26 week time limit was introduced in April 2014 by the Children and Families Act. This time limit was intended to reduce lengthy delays in the process, hopefully minimising emotional harm and uncertainty for all parties involved. The court has the discretion to extend cases by up to eight weeks should that be necessary to reach as just conclusion.
Chief Executive of Cafcass, Anthony Douglas, said “the new figures did not distinguish between cases which were launched before the official introduction of the timetable in April last year, and those launched afterwards.” Cafcass’ own figures suggested that the majority of care cases which began after the introduction of the Children and Families Act were in fact completed in less than 26 weeks.
Anthony Douglas also commented on the phenomenal response by frontline social workers and judges to the challenge of the new timetable.
The Ministry of Justice has made clear that despite the new timetable, every case is different and some will require more time than others.
To view the Family Court statistics, please click here
For more information about care proceedings, the process, and how Fisher Jones Greenwood can help, please click here