A pilot to speed up care cases has more than halved the time taken to resolve matters and is on track to save the public purse £1m a year.
In April, three London boroughs – Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea, and Hammersmith and Fulham – began a partnership with the Inner London Family Proceedings Court, the Principal Registry and Cafcass, to help achieve the government’s six-month time limit for care cases.
The courts agreed to set aside days for hearings from the three boroughs, with a dedicated case manager and the same judge to deal with a case throughout.
In all cases, a Cafcass guardian is appointed to the child before the first hearing to help ensure reports are delivered on time. Early indications show the pilot cut the length of cases from an average of 50-60 weeks to 20.3, equivalent to a saving of more than £1m a year, although the length of time is expected to rise as more complex cases come to an end.
Nineteen other London boroughs have expressed an interest in adopting the approach.
Andrew Christie, tri-borough director of children’s services, said: ‘We’re optimistic that this pilot will prove it is possible to hit the government’s six-month target in the majority of cases.’
Ana Popovici, head of service for public law at Cafcass in London, said reasons for success included judicial continuity, coherent listing and skilled screening of local authority cases by social workers before documents were issued to parties, as well as early input from guardians.
She said: ‘The project is an example of first-rate partnership-working by all the agencies concerned, with a determination to do better.’