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Average length of time for care proceedings has continued to rise, Ministry of Justice data reveals


The average time for a care or supervision case to reach first disposal was 45 weeks in July to September 2021, up four weeks from the same quarter in 2020 and one week compared to April to June 2021, according to the latest Ministry of Justice data.

The Family Court Statistics Quarterly: July to September 2021, issued earlier this month, also showed that just 24% of cases were disposed of within 26 weeks, the statutory target introduced by the Children and Families Act 2014.

This was down five percentage points compared to the same period in 2020, but slightly higher than for April to June 2021 which at 22% was the lowest level since 2012.

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Overall the number of new cases started in the family courts in July to September 2021 was down 11% on the same quarter in 2020. This was due to decreases in all case types but particularly matrimonial (15%), public law (14%) and adoption (12%).

The statistician’s comment in the quarterly said that the volumes decreasing could be seen as the family courts “possibly stabilising following the recovery from the impact of Covid-19 in the end of 2020 and early 2021.

It added: “As seen last quarter, the latest figures are more in line with longer term trends seen pre-Covid-19.”

In July to September 2021 there were 954 adoption applications, down 14% on the equivalent quarter in 2020. The number of adoption orders issued increased by 7%, however, to 1,104.

The quarterly also revealed that there were 1,602 applications relating to deprivation of liberty in July to September 2021, down 8% on the equivalent quarter in 2020. Orders increased by 18% in the latest quarter compared to the same period last year.

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