“Monthly care applications reach three-year low”

By Joe Lepper

| 15 January 2019

The number of monthly children's care applications made by councils to family courts has dipped below the 1,000 mark for the first time in more than three years.

Figures from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) show there were 975 applications made in December last year.

This is the first month since September 2015, when 985 care applications were made, that the figures have fallen below 1,000.

It is also the first December where the number of applications has been below 1,000 since 2014 and is 4.6 per cent (47 applications) down on figures for December last year.

The latest figures continue a recent trend of falling applications following a period of rapid growth.

During 2017/18, the number of applications Cafcass received was 2.7 per cent less than the year before. In 2016/17, the increase was 14 per cent and in 2015/16 there was a 15 per cent rise.

The total number of applications so far in 2018/19 is down 2.4 per cent on the same period last year. Between April and December last year there were 10,617 applications, while this year there have been 10,360.

Despite the falls, Cafcass chief executive Anthony Douglas, says key challenges facing the family care system remain, including high demand in some areas and the length of time it takes for cases to proceed.

"While noteworthy, the number of new care applications we received in December appears to be a seasonal dip and reflects the slight decrease in public law demand we have seen so far in 2018/19," he said.

"Other indicators of system pressures - such as local variation in care demand and the rising average time spent in court - remain big issues which we are constantly discussing with the judiciary and other key players in the court arena."

In recent years, efforts have been made to cut the number of applications and relieve pressure on the care system.

Councils and Cafcass came together in February 2017 to agree to work more collaboratively to speed up cases and where possible divert them away from court.

In November 2018, the Department for Education announced that successful social care initiatives from its innovation programme would be extended to more council areas in a bid to cut children in care numbers.