The 26 week time limit introduced last year for care cases is unlikely to ever be achievable in all instances, the Ministry of Justice has admitted.
The requirement that cases involving the placement of children in care be concluded within 26 weeks was introduced via the Children and Families Act in April 2014 in order to minimise uncertainty and reduce the emotional harm of lengthy delays. But newly published government statistics show that the average duration of care cases concluded between October and December last year was in fact 28.7 weeks. Only a little more than half – 56 per cent – were completed within 26 weeks.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice told Children & People Now that, despite the timetable, every case was different and some required more time.
“…the courts have the discretion to extend cases by up to eight weeks should that be necessary to resolve proceedings justly. As a result the average length of care cases is highly unlikely to ever be 26 weeks.”
Anthony Douglas is Chief Executive of Cafcass. He 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. The service’s own figures suggested that the majority of cases which began after the introduction were in fact completed in less than 26 weeks.
“We must not dismiss the phenomenal response by frontline social workers and judges to the challenge of concluding cases within 26 weeks.”
Read the new statistics here.
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