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Care cases close to taking a year to reach first disposal – twice the statutory target, Government data reveals

The average time for a care or supervision case to reach first disposal was 49 weeks in January to March 2022, up 6 weeks compared to the same quarter in 2021, Ministry of Justice data has revealed.

The Family Court Statistics Quarterly: January to March 2022 noted that this was now at the highest levels seen in mid-2012.

The MoJ publication also said that just 17% of cases were disposed of within 26 weeks, the statutory target introduced by the Children and Families Act 2014. This was down 5 percentage points compared to the same period in 2021.

The data for the first quarter of 2022 point to a continuing rise in the length of time public law cases are taking. In April the Ministry of Justice said the average time for a care or supervision case to reach first disposal throughout 2021 was 45 weeks, up 6 weeks from 2020. Fewer than a quarter of cases (23%) were disposed of within the 26 week timeframe.

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The latest quarterly also revealed that public law cases in the first quarter of 2022 rose 4% to 4,248 against an overall backdrop of a 6% fall in new cases starting in family courts.

The publication also reported that adoption applications in the first quarter this year were – at 1,014 – down 14% on the equivalent quarter in 2021. Similarly, the number of adoption orders issued decreased by 24% to 890.

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