A care proceedings pilot launched between three London councils in April is already proving it is possible to dramatically speed up the majority of children’s care cases, including adoption, to hit the government’s target of six months.
Westminster City Council, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) and Hammersmith & Fulham Council (H&F) began work on a national pilot on 1st April this year in a bid to shine the spotlight on care proceedings and speed up the family court process.
Early indications show the pilot has dramatically reduced the duration of care proceedings cases from a previous average of 50-60 weeks to just 20.3 weeks since the pilot launched.
While this figure is expected to rise slightly as more complex cases come to an end, the initial results show a marked improvement in completion times for cases. The scheme is also expected to save more than £1m a year from the public purse, and the three councils are now sharing lessons and advice with 19 other interested London boroughs.
The pilot involves a new way of working between the three local authorities, family court judges and Cafcass, in which the councils’ social workers agree to deliver their assessments promptly and to a set standard, and judges place the child’s timescales at the heart of their decision making.
The pilot is intended to try and achieve targets set out by the government for children to have a permanent care plan resolved by the court as soon as possible.