Completion times for care proceedings in the family court in Wales have been cut by more than half, with nearly 77% of cases completed within a new 26-week time limit, according to a new report.
The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service Cymru (CAFCASS Cymru) has helped to cut the average completion time of care proceedings from 57 weeks in 2011-12 to fewer than 26 weeks in 2014-15.
The Children and Family Court in Wales now has the best performance times in the UK.
A 26-week time limit for the completion of child care proceedings became law in April 2014, as a result of the Children and Families Act 2014.
The time limit was introduced following a wide-ranging review of the Family Justice System in England and Wales, with the aim of cutting delays in the family court process, minimising uncertainty for children and young people, and any potential harm to their development.
CAFCASS Cymru’s annual report for 2014-2015 shows that the average waiting time for public law cases – where local authorities apply to the courts for a care order in respect of a child – was 24.9 weeks across Wales in the year 2014-2015, with 76.7% of cases resolved within 26 weeks.
This is an improvement from an average wait of 56.7 weeks in 2011-2012 and 27 weeks in 2013-2014.
A total of 7,430 children and young people were supported during 2014-2015 – most of the children CAFCASS Cymru worked with (82%) were aged ten years or under.
Welsh Assembly Health and Social Services Minister Mark Drakeford said:
“Ensuring some of the most vulnerable children in society are given certainty about their long-term futures as quickly as possible is absolutely crucial in providing stability in their lives.
“I’m delighted CAFCASS Cymru has helped secure this significant milestone.
“The reforms made to the family justice system were designed to ensure the needs of children are at the forefront of decisions made about them by the courts.
“I have no doubt many thousands of children and young people across Wales will have benefited greatly from the services CAFCASS Cymru provides.”
Chief executive of CAFCASS Cymru, Gillian Baranski, added:
“Securing the 26-week target for completion of care cases has been a significant milestone.
“Wales is one of only three areas across the UK which has achieved this –
and, as a result, brought earlier certainty to many vulnerable children and young people regarding their future.
“This achievement is a testament to the strength of partnership arrangements which exist across Wales – no one organisation in isolation could have delivered these changes.
“It has been a demanding period for our staff – but their commitment and determination to improve outcomes for children has enabled CAFCASS Cymru to play its part alongside the local authorities and Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service in achieving this remarkable improvement.”
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