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Care proceedings taking significantly longer with fewer disposals within 26 week time limit: Ministry of Justice

The average time for a care or supervision case to reach first disposal was 40 weeks in July to September 2020, up seven weeks from the same quarter in 2019, the latest statistics from the Ministry of Justice have revealed.

The Family Justice Quarterly Statistics: July to September 2020 also showed that only 29% of cases were disposed of within 26 weeks - down 12 percentage points compared to the same period in 2019 and the lowest level since mid-2013.

There were 4,745 public law cases starting in July to September 2020, up by less than 1% compared to the equivalent quarter in 2019. Over the same period there were 4,057 case disposals, similar compared to the previous year.

The publication also revealed a decrease in the number of both adoption applications and orders. In July to September 2020 there were 1,067 adoption applications, down 9% on the equivalent quarter in 2019. Similarly, the number of adoption orders issued decreased by 21% to 1,009, it said.

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There was meanwhile an increase in the deprivation of liberty applications and orders made. There were 1,744 applications relating to deprivation of liberty in July to September 2020, up 29% on the equivalent quarter in 2019 and the highest level since the series began. Orders increased by 45% in the latest quarter compared to the same period last year.

In November the President of the Family Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane, called for renewed focus on wellbeing amid reports of high levels of exhaustion in the judiciary, the professions and staff at courts as the impact of the pandemic continues to be felt.

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