Family judges follow the recommendation of court welfare reports in nine out of 10 cases, research has revealed.
A study commissioned by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) shows that the reports of family court advisers were accepted in just over 75% of cases. That figure rises to 90% if cases in which there was to be a further review by the court are included.
The findings will bolster the reputation of Cafcass at a time of growing demand. In 2011/12 the number of care applications rose by 11%.
In the sample of 170 randomly selected private law residence and/or contact cases there was full congruence between the report recommendations and the final order in 107 cases (63%). In a further 20 cases (12%) there was congruence subject to court review.
Eight cases were partially congruent and in five cases the court did not follow the recommendations of the report. Thirty cases were found not to be applicable because either the application was withdrawn, dismissed or adjourned, or a report was not completed.
The removal of the ‘not applicable’ cases reveals that reports were fully congruent in 76% of cases and congruent subject to court review in 14% of cases, showing a 90% acceptance by the court of Cafcass reports.
Cafcass child protection manager Richard Green said: ‘The fact that our reports are followed in nine out of 10 cases suggests that the courts attach a high degree of merit to them.’
Green said there is a great deal of pressure on Cafcass and the family courts because of coming changes in both public and private law cases. But he said: ‘We have good structures in place to produce high-quality work and we are well placed to respond to the challenges ahead.’