57 weeks for a Family Court decision

Posted on August 13th, 2010

It seems ironic that the recent comments about Independent Social Workers by Ms Marion Davis are followed by research highlighting the length of time it takes for Family Court proceedings.  The research by Barnardos shows that an average of 57 weeks pass before a decision is made.

It is over 20 years since the Children Act 1989 set out a system to try to enforce a child focused approach to care proceedings, in which it proposed an optimum case length of 12 weeks.  Whilst a lot has changed in Social Work over the last 20 years, the notion that prolonged court proceedings have a negative effect on the child is perhaps even more relevant today than it ever was.

Some courts are taking an average of 14 months to resolve proceedings, and there does also appear to be a postcode lottery as to how quickly a child’s future can be decided.  Three out of 18 regions completed proceedings in less than 12 months and Family Court Proceedings in London took on average 65 weeks.

A family justice review is being carried out by the Ministry of Justice and a spokesman said: “The government is committed to reducing unnecessary delay in care proceedings.  A family justice review is currently underway gathering evidence on problems in the current system and proposals for change.  The panel leading the review shares Barnardos’ concerns and has met their representatives to discuss suggestions for reform.”

The removal of Independent Social Workers and thereby reducing the amount of support to front line Social Workers would only increase the length of time taken to reach decisions in court.

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