WillisPalmer launches Remote Assessment Service

WillisPalmer have launched a Remote Assessment Service to deliver social work assessments safely during COVID pandemic.

Read more
Make an Enquiry
Contact Us

Family courts president calls for innovative ways to manage surge of care applications

New, innovative and better ways to handle the increasing number of care applications should be sought, according to the president of the family courts division.

Sir James Munby has outlined that as there is unlikely to be an increasing set of resources to draw from, new innovative ways of handling the surge in care applications should be visited “while never departing from the fundamentals” – namely that:

  • Care cases, with their potential for life-long separation between children and their parents are of unique gravity and importance.
  • It is for the local authority to establish its case.
  • Common law principles of fairness and justice demand as do Articles 6 and 8 of the Convention a process in which the parents and child can fully participate with the assistance of representation by skilled and experienced lawyers.

The number of care cases are rising “seemingly relentlessly,” Munby says, and CAFCASS figures show that in the year to March 2016, there were 12,781 new cases, and increase of 14% from the previous year where there were  11,159 cases.

Between April and July this year there were 4,959 new cases compared to 4,118 in the corresponding three months the previous year, representing a rise of 20%.

“The reasons for the increase are little understood and are currently being investigated,” said Sir Munby, “We must however plan on the basis that there will continue to be significant increases.”

Indeed, CAFCASS chief executive Anthony Douglas recently warned that the surge in the number of care applications during 2015-2016 has become a “major issue” for the organisation.

Sir James Munby outlined two initiatives; settlement conferences and the tandem model.

Settlement conferences are something that he supports “in principle” and has encouraged a trial in Liverpool and pilot schemes in other courts. Sir Munby explains that during a settlement conference, which are an established part of the Canadian legal system, the judge hears from all parties on a without prejudice, confidential and legally privileged basis. If a settlement does not succeed in reaching an agreement and there is a subsequent trial, nothing disclosed at the settlement conference can be used during the trial.

Where a child is a party the child’s solicitor or guardian will ensure that the child’s wishes and feelings are made known.

“The ethos of the settlement conference is not to pressure parties to settle but to explore whether the candour and confidentiality of the process can help to reach common ground,” he added.

The pilots will be evaluated and Sir Munby said he would will be looking closely to see whether the settlement conference approach compromises the fundamental principles of the public law system, such as the right to legal representation, Articles 6 and 8, the paramountcy principle and the importance of ensuring that the voice of the child is heard.

Turning to the tandem model, Sir Munby said the model is fundamental to “a fair and just care system” and only the tandem model can ensure that the child’s interests, wishes and feelings are correctly identified and properly represented. Without the tandem model, the potential for injustice is increased he added.

He said he would therefore strongly oppose and watering down of this vital component of care proceedings but highlighted that the initiative “costs money”.

He concluded by making a further plea for restraint in the expenditure of public funds. “It is essential that such public funds as are available for funding litigation in the Family Court and the Family Division are carefully husbanded and properly applied,” the president concluded.

Sir James Munby's comments are available here.

Make an enquiry

A multi-disciplinary organisation providing independent, high quality social work and psychological services. Contact us with your requirements and speak to a member of our team who will help you today.
Make an Enquiry

Knowledge & Resources

Keep abreast of the latest news in the children's services sector.

COVID-19 – The effects on survivors of abuse

19/11/2020

Clare Jerrom speaks to Future Pathways Alliance Manager Flora Henderson about how COVID-19 has impacted on survivors of abuse in care.

The loneliness and isolation experienced by so many during lockdown have been amplified for many adults who experienced neglect or abuse in the care system. For some the restrictions of freedom have felt reminiscent of [...]

Read Full Story

Children experiencing homeless slammed as ‘national scandal’

19/11/2020

Over half of state school teachers have worked at a school with homeless children or children who have become homeless, the charity Shelter has revealed.

Most teachers have first-hand knowledge of the damage done by the housing emergency to education –– with it now commonplace to see children grappling with homelessness at school, an issue slammed [...]

Read Full Story

Instagram increasingly used to groom children

18/11/2020

Instagram is increasingly being used to groom children, the NSPCC has warned.

The photo and video sharing app was used in 37% of online grooming offences compared to 29% over the previous three years, the children’s charity has found.

NSPCC Chief Executive, Peter Wanless said: “Families have long paid the price for big tech’s failure to protect [...]

Read Full Story
Children First is an online resource for professionals working with children presented by WillisPalmer, providing you with the latest news, features and interviews.
Subscribe Today
Delivering a diverse, reliable range of services to children and their families across the UK
D1, Parkside, Knowledge Gateway, Nesfield Road, Colchester, Essex CO4 3ZL
Contact Us
closechevron-downbars linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram