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Children – Public Law
Care Cases – Cafcass
Between April 2015 and March 2016 Cafcass received a total of 11,157 public law cases showing an increase of 5% on the previous year.
Cafcass publishes guidance on section 20 agreements
New guidance from Cafcass clarifies expectations on local authorities for children looked after under section 20 of the Children Act 1989. Children are looked after under section 20 by the agreement of their parent(s) and no parental responsibility is conferred upon the local authority.
The guidance confirms that being looked after under section 20 remains a viable option for many children despite concern expressed by the courts regarding children that have been left to “drift” without decent care plans in place. It confirms that the local authorities should review all open s20 cases to ensure that s20 status is still appropriate for the child. It also clarifies the duties and responsibilities the local authority has to a child looked after under s20.
Average time for the disposal of care cases
Quarterly statistics have been revealed that show:
- The number of cases started in family courts between October and December 2015 was up 6% on the previous year.
- The average time for finalising care/supervision applications made in October to December 2015 was 28 weeks which is in line with the downward trend.
- 60% of care/supervision cases were finalised within 26 weeks following the introduction of the time limit in 2014.
- The recent downward trend in the number of adoptions orders made was maintained with an 11% drop in October to December compared to the previous year.
Support for Vulnerable Parties
The use of Intermediaries to support vulnerable clients in court proceedings is growing increasingly common and these are at present funded from the court interpreter/translation budget.
The function of an intermediary is to communicate:
- To the witness – questions that are put to them
- To any person asking questions – the answers in reply
Intermediaries are unable to meet current demand. The Court of Appeal has considered whether intermediaries are needed in every case where there is a vulnerable witness stating that litigants must receive a fair trial and must be ‘guaranteed what support is necessary to compensate for disability’. That is not to say that a fair hearing is not possible without an intermediary, but it is an important consideration.
Government unveils new adoption strategy to end delay
The Education Secretary has unveiled a new strategy: Adoption: a vision for change. The 4-year strategy sets out how it will deliver a system where all children are matched with adoptive parents without delay.
It also includes a drive to boost educational success of adopted children by designating a teacher and “virtual school head” to give tailored support to overcome trauma.
£14 million will be invested for innovative local schemes.