Thirty-three care applications dating from 2010/11 have yet to be resolved, according to figures obtained by the magazine Children & Young People Now.
An additional seven cases still underway date back still further, in some cases as far back as 2007. The figures were obtained by the Children and Family Court Advisory Service (Cafcass), which works to support children involved in family court cases.
From April next year, family courts will be expected to resolve care applications and decide whether children should stay with their birth families or enter the care system within a maximum of 26 weeks (six and a half months), except in exceptional circumstances.
Cafcass said some of the older cases had “unique” features, the magazine reports, such as “inter-country features or criminal proceedings”. In addition, 16 of the 33 cases have classed as “inactive” and are likely to be closed shortly.
Andrew Webb is president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services. He said
“No child should have its future hanging in the hands of the judge as opposed to parents for this length of time.”
He welcomed the forthcoming 26 week timetable.
“If cases go beyond [26 weeks] then we will have to say why and give a timeline. Judges will say we have to make a decision to give a child stability.”