Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service chief executive Anthony Douglas has taken personal charge of a programme to turn around significant financial and performance problems in its London region.
Until next March, he will spend one day a week seeking to tackle massive backlogs in allocating public law cases and save £1m from its budget.
Douglas said the situation was his “biggest challenge” of 2006-7, though not critical; but internal documents seen by Community Care show the huge scale of the problem.
London overspent in 2005-6 by an estimated £1.8 million, representing 14 per cent of its budget and compared with a national overspend of less than £200,000 (0.2 per cent).
The region’s performance in public law was also disappointing. Only 15.2 per cent of cases were allocated within two days in London between April 2005 and February 2006, compared with 49.5 per cent nationally and a government target of 70 per cent.
Under the Every Day Matters professional strategy, published last October, Douglas is committed to eliminating delays in public law by April 2007.
Some of the causes of London’s problems are external to Cafcass.
Public law demand rose by 19.9 per cent in London, compared with 1.2 per cent nationally, while demand for complex rule 9.5 private law cases rose by 56.9 per cent, despite falling nationally by 3.9 per cent.
Douglas also said Cafcass faced particular pressures from the judiciary in London, including delays in court listings.