Posted: 14th October 2016
Author: Emily Bower

“CARE CASES – THE LOOMING CRISIS” – The President’s View

holding hands

Last month, in his latest view from the President’s Chambers, Sir James Munby stated that we “face a clear and imminent crisis”. Applications to CAFCASS for the last six months are 23% ahead of the corresponding period last year.

The Figures

CAFCASS release statistics showing the number of care proceeding applications made by local authorities where CAFCASS has been appointed by the court to represent the interests of children, and statistics showing the number of cases where the court has asked CAFCASS to carry out work in private law cases. These statistics are posted on the eighth working day of each month.

The latest figures show:-

CAFCASS received a total of 1,216 care applications in September 2016. This figure represents a 23% increase compared to those received in September 2015.

For full details see the CAFCASS Care and Private Law Demand Statistics – link below:

https://www.cafcass.gov.uk/leaflets-resources/organisational-material/care-and-private-law-demand-statistics.aspx

The Causes

In his view, the President of the Family Division suggests that there are three possible causes for the increase in care cases:-

“(1) The amount of child abuse / neglect is increasing;

(2) Local authorities are becoming more adept at identifying child abuse / neglect and taking action to deal with it;

(3) Local authorities are setting more demanding standards – in other words, lowering the threshold for intervention”

The President makes clear that further research, investigation and analysis is needed in relation to the causes for the increase, judicial deployment in care cases and the court process, if we are to have any chance in coming up with accurate predictions for the future.

What can be done?

He also summarises a number of steps that can be taken now to improve the way in which care cases are handled “without sacrificing what is fundamental or prejudicing standards” including:

  • An amendment to PD27A the Bundles Practice Direction to impose page limits for certain documents.
  • Threshold Statements prepared by the Local Authority are to be short, focused and Re A [2015] EWFC 11 compliant.
  • Every effort must be made to ensure the effectiveness of the Case Management Hearing to minimise the number of directions hearings required.
  • More stringent scrutiny of applications for expert instruction.
  • Every effort must be made to ensure the effectiveness of the Issues Resolution Hearing, so that the final hearing, if required can focus on the remaining issues in dispute.
  • Full support of FDAC and Pause – focusing on addressing the underlying problems of parents which lead to their children becoming the subject of care proceedings.

To see the full article please follow the link below.

https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/pfd-view-15-care-cases-looming-crisis.pdf

Emily Bower