Laura Sharman 21 September 2016

Judge warns child care cases pushing family courts to crisis

Judge warns child care cases pushing family courts to crisis image

Family courts are facing an imminent crisis due to the ‘relentless’ rise in the number of child care cases they deal with, a senior judge has warned.

Sir James Munby, president of the High Court’s family division, said the latest figures reveal the number of child care applications being seen in family courts have more than doubled in the past ten years.

Sir Mundy suggested that the increase could be a result of local authorities lowering the threshold for intervention, as well as becoming more adept at identifying child abuse and neglect.

He said he thought it very unlikely that child abuse had actually increased by that amount, so ‘changes in local authority behaviour’ were more likely reasons for the increase.

He also explained that the Baby P case in 2007 saw child care cases increase by 35% the following year.

He said: ‘The fact is that, on the ground, the system is – the people who make the system work are – at full stretch. We cannot, and I have for some time now been making it clear that I will not, ask people to work harder. Everyone – everyone – is working as hard as they can.

‘We are facing a crisis and, truth be told, we have no very clear strategy for meeting the crisis,’ he added.

Sir Munby said schemes that supporting women at risk of having numerous children removed from them such as the Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) and Pause would be crucial in the future.

In response, cllr Richard Watts, chair of the LGA's Children and Young People Board, said: 'The number of children on child protection plans has increased by over 60% [since 2007], and these latest figures highlight the huge rise in care applications. But local authorities have faced significant funding cuts over this same period, and with such a big rise in demand for services, it's vital that local authorities have the resources they need to keep children and young people safe.

'Councils are forced to make difficult choices when deciding how to allocate their increasingly scarce resources, and a 55% cut in early intervention funding since 2010/11 has made it difficult to deal with problems earlier while continuing to provide essential help and support to children at immediate risk of harm.'

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