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Average time for care proceedings continued upward trend in 2020 – with final quarter reaching levels not seen since 2013

The average time for a care or supervision case to reach first disposal was 38 weeks in 2020, up 5 weeks from 2019, it has emerged.

According to the Family Court Statistics Quarterly: October to December 2020, fewer than a third of these care proceedings (31%) were disposed of within the 26-week limit introduced in the Children and Families Act 2014 - down 10 percentage points compared to 2019.

There were 18,051 public law cases started in 2020, down 2% from 2019, whilst the number of cases disposed decreased by 10% over the same period to 14,816. Applications were down 2% from 2019, with 19,099 in total involving 29,674 individual children.

The data showed there were 4,437 public law cases starting in October to December 2020, down 3% compared to the equivalent quarter in 2019. Cases disposed were down 1% to 4,040.

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The speed of proceedings slowed further in the final quarter, with the average time for a care and supervision case to reach first disposal being 41 weeks.

This was up 8 weeks from the same quarter in 2019 and the highest average since mid-2013.

Just over a quarter (27%) of these care proceedings were disposed of within the 26-week limit, down 13 percentage points from the same period last year.

Overall there were 68,634 new cases started in Family courts in October to December 2020, up 6% on the same quarter in 2019.

This was due to increases in most case types: domestic violence (21%), financial remedy (8%), matrimonial (5%) and private law (3%) cases. These offset the decrease in public law case starts.

Annually, there were 264,091 new cases started in Family courts throughout 2020, similar to 2019.

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