Yorkshire Times
Weekend Edition
Anthony Parrish
Legal Features Writer
1:07 AM 30th September 2023

Family Court Crisis Affects Children’s Wellbeing: Is There A Solution?

Image by Luda Kot from Pixabay
Image by Luda Kot from Pixabay
I was disheartened but not surprised to hear how tens of thousands of children continue to be the victims of a crisis in the family court system.

Data from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) reveals how children who have been removed from their parents by the state have to wait almost four years to find out where they will live.

Prolonged hold ups in care proceedings and parental separation cases can have a major impact on the well-being of children whose interests should always come first.

The effects include stress and anxiety over where their home will be, what school they will attend - and when they will finally see their parents.

While a judicial call for all care proceedings to be completed within 26 weeks and streamlining the number of court hearings appears a positive step forward, the reality is different.

This is due to the level of unforeseen and unavoidable delays, in part arising from family members suddenly appearing out of nowhere in the late stages of proceedings and requiring assessments.

Contributing factors also include Local Authority backlogs in completing assessments and securing approval for long term childcare placements, largely caused by a high turnover of social work staff.

Added to all this is professionals being given extensive timeframes to submit their reports.

With CAFCASS currently responsible for almost 32,000 unresolved public law cases affecting over 52,000 individual children, what can be done to resolve the crisis?

A start would be for courts to step up pressure on local authorities to complete cases in shorter time frames. However, I remain sceptical this would not produce real results due to the external factors highlighted above.

As a niche family law firm, we wholeheartedly back calls for Government intervention and investment to prevent so many children being unwittingly trapped in a system which is on the verge of a breakdown.

Anthony Parrish is a Partner at Jones Myers family law firm.