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Surge in care applications a “major issue” for Cafcass

Cafcass chief executive warns of pressures on organisation given 14% rise in care applications during a year

The surge in the number of care applications during 2015-2016 has become a “major issue” for Cafcass, its chief executive has warned.

Cafcass received 12,741 care applications during 2015-2016, a 14.2 per cent rise from the same period during the previous year.

“A major issue for us throughout the last financial year was increases in demand,” said Anthony Douglas, chief executive of Cafcass. “We saw a 10.3% (from 2014-15) increase in private law cases and a 14.2% increase in the number of public law care applications compared with the previous year.”

“Work is underway with the Ministry of Justice on our future operating models across private and public law, an important part of which is assessing which measures may help stem demand, while ensuring those in need still receive a service,” Douglas added.

Children First has repeatedly reported how care applications have increased during the last few months. The latest available figures from Cafcass show that in July 2016, Cafcass received a total of 1,305 care applications.  This figure represents a 16% increase compared to those received in July 2015 and is the highest number of care applications received in a month. The previous highest figure in a month was 1,265 care applications made in June 2016.

“Staying within these reduced spending targets has been very challenging in the context of rising demand and the expectation of continued innovation and piloting new practice models,” said Douglas adding that he is pleased to have been given a “manageable budget for 2016-17, though this is still very much a stretch target given the level of projected demand increases this year”.

His challenge, he added, would be “to deliver efficiencies and be part of future sector transformation, while managing a demand led service and ensuring we maintain safe standards with incoming cases”.

Douglas added that he has been in discussion with the President of the Family Division, senior judges, the LAA and other delivery partners about the potential for bringing cash limited budgeting principles into the family justice system, by defining a fixed budget for Cafcass services in each local court area and a pricing schedule (for example, for a section 7 report; for a contact monitoring order).

“This could be a significant development for the years ahead and we will continue to pursue realistic policy options for this,” he added.

 

 

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