Operations of the Family Courts - Justice Committee Contents

Supplementary evidence from the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Education following the evidence session on 26 April 2011 (FC 74)

In oral evidence Mr Loughton told the Comittee that:

"...certainly the number of children in care about whom the courts have then upheld that was the right decision would suggest that perhaps more children should have come into the care system pre-Baby Peter than actually did."(Q323)

Could the Department confirm which figures the Minister is referring to?

Prior to Baby P, in roughly 9 out of 10 cases, the courts made an order (ie to take the child into care, adoption, or place with a relative etc).

The Ministry of Justice has no evidence to suggest that the proportion of orders made has decreased in the post Baby P cases (and the Cafcass study backs this up).

This generally indicates that local authorities were therefore right to bring these applications to court, but that perhaps there were cases pre-Baby P which should have come to court but didn't.

The Review of Child Care Proceedings System in England and Wales (2006) found that in relation to section 31 child care proceedings "in 7% of cases applications are withdrawn, no order is made, or an order of 'no order' is made". Therefore, roughly speaking, the court will support around 90% of applications made to it. With the costs of court proceedings, including staff resources, it would clearly not make sense for the Local Authority (LA) to take forward proceedings unless they felt it was correct to do so (as part of their statutory duty towards children) if an alternative solution could be found allowing a child to stay with its parents. In addition the LA will then face the costs of supporting the child in relation to the order made eg taken into LA care accommodation, so again it is not in the interests of the LA to take children to court unnecessarily.

June 2011

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