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Average time for care or supervision cases to reach first disposal up six weeks in 2021, government data reveals

The average time for a care or supervision case to reach first disposal throughout 2021 was 45 weeks, up 6 weeks from 2020, according to data published by the Ministry of Justice.

The Family Court Statistics Quarterly: October to December 2021 revealed that the average time for the final three months of 2021 was higher still at 47 weeks, up 5 weeks from the same quarter in 2020.

The MoJ publication also showed that in 2021 fewer than a quarter of cases (23%) were disposed of within 26 weeks, the statutory target introduced by the Children and Families Act 2014. This was down 8 percentage points compared to 2020.

The statistician’s comment in the publication said: “Timeliness measures are still showing the impact of the reduced capacity during lockdown. Care and supervision proceedings continue to see an increase in the average time to a first definitive disposal. Although it’s worth noting that divorce cases saw a slight reduction in duration towards the end of 2021.

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“As timeliness averages are measured from the first application in a case, data for the next few quarters are likely to continue to include some cases issued before or during the early stages of the pandemic. Measures implemented during the pandemic, such as Nightingale courts and the increase in hearings by remote means, will have benefitted later cases and as such should begin to impact on timeliness measures in the next few quarters.”

The Family Court Statistics Quarterly: October to December 2021 noted that the number of new public law cases was – at 4,111 – down 7% in October to December 2021 compared to the same period in 2020. Cases disposed were down 9% to 3,618.

Overall new cases started in Family courts in October to December 2021 were – at 58,762 – down 17% on the same quarter in 2020. This was due to decreases in all case types.

Annually, there were 265,308 new cases started in Family courts throughout 2021, similar to 2020.

The MoJ data also showed that in October to December 2021 there were 1,054 adoption applications, down 11% on the equivalent quarter in 2020. Similarly, the number of adoption orders issued decreased by 13% to 970.

Annually, there were 4,248 applications and 4,417 orders for adoption in 2021, similar to 2020 and up 15% respectively.

The Family Court Statistics Quarterly: October to December 2021 meanwhile revealed that there were 1,687 applications relating to deprivation of liberty in October to December 2021, up 24% on the equivalent quarter in 2020. Orders were similar to the same period last year (758 orders).

There were 6,286 applications and 3,793 orders relating to deprivation of liberty throughout 2021, up 27% and 8% respectively.

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