The average time for the disposal of a care or supervision application has fallen from over 55 weeks in 2011 to 26.9 weeks in 2016, government statistics have revealed.
The average time for a care or supervision application saw a long-term downward trend seen from over 55 weeks in 2011 to 30 weeks in 2014. The fall continued, at a reduced rate over the last two years, to an average of 28.3 weeks for 2015, and then to 26.9 weeks for 2016.
“Accordingly, the percentage of care or supervision proceedings disposed of within 26 weeks, increased from 12% in 2011 to 61% in 2016, following on from the 26 week time limit introduced in the Children and Families Act 2014,” the Family Court statistics reveal.
The MoJ and HMCTS are looking into the reasons behind the rise in care applications
The Family Court Statistics Quarterly, England and Wales Annual 2016 report including October to December 2016 show an average time for a disposal can be skewed by cases that take a long time, the report warns, and so the median time is also calculated. The median time to make a disposal in a case was 24.9 weeks for all children involved in care and supervision proceedings where a decision was reached during 2016.
This indicates that half of the children waited 24.9 weeks or less from application to a substantive disposal, and the other half waited at least 24.9 weeks.
Over 256,000 cases started in family courts in England and Wales in 2016, an increase over the previous two years mainly driven by increases in public law, private law and financial remedy cases.
Following the publicity surrounding the Baby P case, the number of children involved in public law applications made by local authorities jumped from around 20,000 to almost 26,000 in 2009 and subsequently to 29,500 in 2011. The number of public law cases started remained fairly steady between 2011 and 2014, until rising to 16,000 in 2015 and again to nearly 19,000 in 2016, an increase of 18% from the previous year.
Although figures for Quarter 4 in 2016 show the first downturn since the start of 2015, volumes are still up compared with Q4 in 2015.
The MoJ and HMCTS are continuing to look into the reasons behind the recent increases in public law applications.
There has been a fall in adoption orders
The number of private law cases started in 2016 increased by 11% over the previous year from 43,347 to 48,244. The number of children involved in applications also increased by 10% over the same period to 49,910. These increases are evident across all regions in England and Wales.
The number of children involved in private law orders made in 2016 was nearly 165,000, up slightly by 2% compared to 2015.
According to the statistics, the number of applications for adoption orders fell between 2015 and 2016. There was a long-term rise in adoption applications and orders from 2011 until mid-2014, with applications and orders 40% higher for 2014 overall compared to 2011. However, numbers have since been declining.
The figures show that 5,868 applications were made for an adoption order in 2016 compared to 6,259 in 2015, and a further drop from the 6,830 applications recorded for 2014.
The report also details that:
- The number of applications for domestic violence remedy orders have remained stable over recent years at around 19,000 non-molestation and 4,700 occupation applications per annum.
- There have been 121 applications made for Female Genital Mutilation Protection Orders, which came into effect on 17 July 2015 to safeguard girls who are at risk of FGM at home or abroad, or who are survivors. In total, 94 orders made since their introduction up to the end of 2016.
- There were 29,711 applications made under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 in 2016, up 11% on 2015 and continuing the long-term upward trend. The majority of these (54%) related to applications for appointment of a property and affairs deputy.
- Applications relating to deprivation of liberty increased from 109 in 2013 to 525 in 2014 to 1,497 in 2015. Latest figures show another large increase, more than doubling to 3,143 applications in 2016. Similarly, orders made for deprivation of liberty increased between 2015 and 2016, more than doubled from 644 to 1,366.