Councils will no longer have to stump up hefty court fees when making care orders if proposals put forward by the family justice review are accepted by government.
The review panel, which last week published its interim report into the state of the family justice system in England and Wales, recommended that the fees of up to £4,825 – charged to councils when they apply to take a child into care – should be abolished.
Matt Dunkley, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said councils would be encouraged by the recommendation.
“Once again, an authoritative voice from the family justice system has indicated that the court fees imposed on local authorities to initiate care proceedings are unhelpful,” he said.
“While we do believe that the impact on decision-making in local authorities was marginal, given the much larger other costs of care proceedings and of looking after a child in care, any relief from financial pressure is welcome.”
Councils had expected to be able to stop paying the controversial fees this month, after a recommendation from Francis Plowden, who investigated whether the fees were deterring councils from initiating care proceedings.
But justice minister Jonathan Djanogly announced in October that he saw no reason to abolish the fees, as Labour’s justice secretary, Jack Straw, had promised.
In a written ministerial statement, Djanogly said it would be “premature” to remove the fees before the family justice review reports in autumn 2011. But he did confirm that he would review them, “following these findings and any proposals that seek to change the way in which these cases are dealt with by the courts”.
The family justice review also recommended that charges for police checks levied on family courts body Cafcass should be abolished.
The public consultation will run until the end of June.
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