Tri-borough councils join forces to speed up care proceedings in national pilot
Tuesday May 1, 2012
Above: Andrew Christie launches the Care Proceedings Pilot at the Law Society
The three tri-borough London councils of Hammersmith & Fulham and Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster are shining the spotlight on children’s care proceedings in a groundbreaking national pilot to speed up the family court process.
The new Care Proceedings Pilot is a national first, acting as a litmus test for what could be rolled out across the country.
The pilot involves a new ‘pact’ between the three local authorities and judges within the family court system to speed up proceedings. In particular, this pact will try to achieve the target set out in the recent Family Justice Review for children to have their need for a permanent plan resolved by the court within six months.
The pilot was launched on Tuesday, April 24 at the Law Society.
The councils have agreed to deliver their assessments promptly and to a set standard, and in return judges will place the child’s timescales at the heart of their decision making.
The agreement involves the Inner London Family Proceedings Court (ILFPC), the Principal Registry, CAFCASS and the three councils, and will encompass all care proceedings in respect of children who have suffered significant harm.
There will be specially designated days at the ILFPC for tri-borough cases being heard under the pilot, and wherever possible the same judge will be used throughout a case to ensure continuity and further speed up proceedings.
The pilot will also involve the recruitment of a new project manager and a new case manager, who will co-ordinate approximately 100 care cases across the three boroughs each year. It will be their job to track and chase the progress of each case and ensure the six-month deadline is achieved.
Case reviews will be also be conducted after each case is concluded, to incorporate lessons from each case into future best practice and continue improving the system.
The new focus on speeding up care proceedings follows a clear correlation between the age of children in the care system and their success in finding a permanent family.
Tri-borough head of children’s services Andrew Christie, who oversees the children’s departments in all three boroughs, said: “While the measurable focus of this pilot might be to speed up family court proceedings and hit the six month target, the overarching aim is to achieve greater permanency and emotional stability for vulnerable children in our care.
“Every child needs a stable home and strong family base, so we hope this new programme will transcend targets and checklists and make a real difference to these young children’s lives.”