Family courts are now taking up to 65 weeks to rule if it is safe for children to stay with their parents, according to research by Barnardo’s.
Children are being “damaged” due to this “unprecedented delay”, the charity said. Vulnerable children are waiting on average more than a year (57 weeks) in unstable family homes or emergency foster placements before a county court decides if they will be taken into care. In the family proceedings court, the average time is 45 weeks, or more than 10 months, the research said.
“An insecurity has spread through the family courts with additional, sequential expert assessments being routinely ordered,” said Martin Narey, Barnardo’s chief executive. “This paired with the evident lack of credence given to social workers, is causing unnecessary delay.
“The courts need urgently to reflect on the damage these delays are having on extremely vulnerable children. A year of a child’s life is an inordinate amount of time for them to be trapped in desperate limbo, unclear of their future and very possibly at risk.”
John Ransford, chief executive of the Local Government Association, said: “The family courts have failed to respond to the increasing number of children coming into care effectively enough. The lengthening court delays pose a very real danger to the vulnerable children councils want to be able to protect and it is clear radical changes are needed to make the system fit for purpose.”
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