Temporary measures that permitted Cafcass to allocate cases to duty guardians are likely to be extended for another year, Cafcass chief executive Anthony Douglas said today.
The measures were expected to end this month.
But Douglas told MPs on the House of Commons’ public accounts committee this morning that he and Sir Nicholas Wall, president of the family division at the High Court, would jointly announce an extension to the interim guidance before the end of this month.
The extension will permit local agreements between judges and Cafcass officers to continue the measures if they were helping practitioners manage the unprecedented number of referrals, Douglas said.
Douglas also gave an indication that the high levels of referrals were continuing, announcing that care applications for August 2010 reached 766. This is compared with 671 in August last year.
Margaret Hodge, chair of the public accounts committee, called the extension shocking and said it would be to the detriment of children, who require a named practitioner throughout their case.
But Douglas said the interim guidance had enabled Cafcass to reduce backlogs and unallocated cases. He said Cafcass now has just 150 unallocated cases and said the average time a case waits for a guardian had been reduced from 40 days to 27 this year.
He said the duty system was likely to continue in London, which he said has half of all duty cases, and South Yorkshire where the duty system was favoured by local judges and practitioners.
Douglas added that the guidance would be extended as a temporary measure and agreed that permanent, sustainable measures were needed.
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