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Cafcass: there is a new ‘culture of urgency’ in the family courts

The family courts have begun to replace a “culture of delay” with a “culture of urgency”, the Chief Executive of Cafcass has claimed.

Writing in Family Law, Anthony Douglas hailed a recent drop in the average time taken to complete care applications, down to 30 weeks from double that two years ago. He said:

“A halving of the time a case takes in court gives the average child subject to care proceedings – an extra 6 months less in limbo. Of course, this only makes sense if the speed with which the child can be placed securely and safely with permanent carers, whether back home, with relatives or with approved carers outside of the family network, is also faster.”

However, he claims, if new children entering the care system simply join the “4,000 plus” already looking for homes and permanent carers, “the greater speed in the family courts will count for little.”

The dramatic decrease in care application completion times “is a huge shift in operational culture which we can build on in the years to come.”

From April this 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.

Mr Douglas believes this timetable will now be met before the law changes, saying this is a “testimony to all those practitioners in the family justice system who have worked hard to bring it about.”

He added:

“I do not believe the fears about miscarriages of justice to parents by completing cases quicker are borne out. 26 weeks is still a very long time in a child’s life.”

Parents who abuse or neglect their children must show that they can change “in a matter of months, not years”, he said. Children “marooned” in the care system, with no sign of resolution or permanent placement “can easily lose their sense of hope and trust.”

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Paul says:

    Has Cafcass ever responded on how they propose to surmount the difficulties identified in Dr Weir’s research report on the extreme unreliability of children’s wishes and feelings?

    Many a parent and his child have been doomed for good on the basis of a faulty Cafcass dipstick report.

    And what about the legislators? Why does a child’s ascertainable wishes and feelings still remain a pivotal part of the welfare checklist when there is common agreement that W & F exercises can be so easily corrupted?

  2. Anon says:

    Did you read the xbox mother’s judgement. The judge stated that while the two child didn’t wish to live with their estranged father that such feelings were tainted. Does this mean the court only needs to follow the children’s wishes when such wishes align with the view of the judge? [2013] EWHC B33 (Fam)

  3. vob re says:

    ‘ This new culture of urgency’, is a disaster in the making, and will serve no ones ‘best interest’ least of all the child’s.
    Parents are told by Social workers they must co-operate
    thus allowing the removal of their children despite it being illegal ‘Lambs to the slaughter’ no redress.
    Parents are unlikely to have an ‘ independent social worker’ or an ‘expert’ acting for them, the system is shocking in allowing a ‘Conveyor mentality ‘ namely a’ Fostering Adoption Drive’
    Children are now increasingly being placed with potential
    adopters; the long term legacy of acting in haste with this twenty six timetable will see the already high failure rates in adoption and fostering increase with all round ‘human misery’.

  4. Anon says:

    @vob re

    My question is what happens when the kids grow up and realize what has been done to them in their name.

  5. Philip Measures says:

    There is no known long-term research into the strenghts (benefits) and weaknesses (concerns) of adoption so one can only conclude that as one of the very few countries to have ‘forced adoption’ on its statute book that the UK is more guided by emotion / political expediency than evidence-based research.

    This is really extremely worrying.

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