A week in family law
The week began with news of yet another local authority data breach relating to children in care. This time it was the turn of Leicester City Council, which accidentally emailed a spreadsheet containing details of “hundreds, potentially thousands” of vulnerable people, including children, to 27 taxi firms. The Council sent a recall email requesting the original email to be deleted. It has also launched an investigation, and will report the incident to the Information Commissioner’s Office. Councillor Ross Grant is quoted as saying that the incident had made him feel “sick in my stomach”, and that:
“There is no guarantee this has not been copied and spread, we cannot put the genie back in the bottle.”
Quite, but this really isn’t good enough. I realise that in this ‘electronic information age’ it is far easier to ‘mislay’ data, and that there is no such thing as a ‘perfect’ system, but here we are talking about information relating to some of the most vulnerable people in society. They need to be protected by the most robust systems available, which I’m sure should be capable of eradicating this sort of basic error.
In better news, Mr Justice Hayden has announced that four year-old Elliana Shand has been found safe and well in Spain. Elliana, who is the subject of care proceedings, had been missing with her mother, who has mental health problems, since last summer. At a hearing in the High Court in London, Mr Justice Hayden said she was found by police in Spain last Thursday. He also indicated that plans were in place to return Elliana to England in the next few days. Mr Justice Hayden had previously made a number of appeals for information on the mother and daughter’s whereabouts, and had taken the unusual step of ruling that details of the case could be made public, with photographs of Elliana and her mother being released to the media.
Cafcass has published its latest figures for care applications and private law demand, for December 2017. In that month the service received a total of 1,008 care applications. Whilst this figure represents an eight per cent decrease in comparison with December 2016, it should be pointed out that it is the third-highest monthly total for December on record. As to private law demand, Cafcass received a total of 2,790 new private law cases, which is a modest two per cent decrease compared with those received in December 2016. Still, it is good to see the figures going down for a change.
However, the small decrease in the number of care applications is hardly a cause for celebration, as demonstrated by a different set of figures published this week. According to the Local Government Association (LGA), a child was referred to local authority children’s services every 49 seconds last year. The LGA revealed that there were 646,120 referrals overall to councils’ children’s services during 2016/17 – with 1,770 referrals being made every day, that is the equivalent of one every 49 seconds. More than 500 child protection investigations were also started on average each day in 2016/17, increasing from 200 a decade ago. Incredible statistics. The LGA said the figures reinforce the urgent need for the government to use the upcoming final Local Government Finance Settlement to address the £2 billion funding gap that is facing children’s services by the end of the decade.
And finally, we have just passed an extremely important milestone that occurred last Thursday, although I didn’t become aware of it until a few days later. On 11 January 1923 Maud Crofts became the first woman in England to be issued with a practising certificate. Her name is perhaps not so well known, as she was not the first woman to be admitted as a solicitor in this country (that honour went to Carrie Morrison, who was admitted in 1922), but nevertheless the 95th anniversary of the first practising certificate issued to a woman is surely still something to be celebrated. After all, if it wasn’t for pioneers like Maud Crofts and Carrie Morrison, we may never have had Stowe Family Law…
Have a good weekend.