Cafcass chief executive Anthony Douglas said the need for care applications remained at a “high level” with there being “no underlying change” in demand.
His comments followed the publication today of the September care applications figures from Cafcass that showed there were 830 applications last month, six per cent fewer than in September 2012. The monthly figure for August (828) was also 17 per cent down on the corresponding figure in 2012.
Despite applications falling for two consecutive months and quarterly figures sitting at levels not consistently seen for two years, Douglas attributed the decline to the introduction of the revised Public Law Outline (PLO) case management system.
“We saw a decline in 2008 before the first PLO was introduced, and I think this decline is primarily down to the impact of the revised PLO,” he explained.
The PLO sets out the work that local authorities need to do before making care applications, so any changes to these requirements will take councils time to adapt. The changes to PLO have been phased in over recent months, with the last 30 local authorities starting to use it this week.
However, Douglas said that efforts by local authorities to do more pre-proceedings work could be helping to resolve some cases without having to make care applications.
He added: “It may be an early trend on more diversion; it’s too early to tell. But it’s probably not enough to affect the underlying high level of between 850 and 1,000 applications per month. It is quite a range, but I think it will stay at that level.”
Douglas said the figures also hid “wild local variation” in the number of applications made by different councils, with some areas making “rapid progress” in their use of diversion to find alternatives to care.
In 2012/13, Cafcass received 11,099 new applications, eight per cent higher than the previous year. February 2013 saw 1,002 applications made, the highest monthly total ever recorded.