Measures to tackle Cafcass family courts backlog ditched

Controversial measures introduced to help Cafcass tackle the backlog of family court cases that built up after the Baby P case are to be discontinued. It follows an agreement between the president of the family division of the High Court and Cafcass chief Anthony Douglas (pictured).

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Controversial measures introduced to help Cafcass tackle the backlog of family court cases that built up after the Baby P case are to be discontinued.

The measures – which became known as the president’s interim guidance and allowed Cafcass to allocate cases to teams of duty guardians instead of a named practitioner – will cease on 30 September.

It follows an agreement between Sir Nicholas Wall, president of the family division of the High Court, and Anthony Douglas, chief executive of family courts body Cafcass.

The guidance, introduced in 2009, was expected to last six months but in September 2010 was extended for a further 12.

Wall and Douglas said the success achieved by local performance improvement groups precluded the need for the extension to be renewed.

A review of local arrangements between Cafcass and designated family judges, commissioned by the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Education, found the groups had improved joint-working between courts, Cafcass and other agencies. This had led to strong information sharing and new ways of improving systems locally had been identified.

Wall and Douglas said in a statement: “We are both of the view that the good practice generated by the [performance improvement groups] is now well established and should continue without the need for any formal agreement between us.”

They added that local discussions and initiatives will continue and “local agreements or protocols will remain in place or new ones be drawn up as the need arises”.

Douglas said today: “We are confident that the good practice and strong collaboration that has built up between Cafcass and designated family judges will continue through local agreements so that children continue to benefit from an improved service.”

Cafcass’ latest statistics show that care applications are continuing to soar. Between April and July 2011, the body received 3,213 new applications, up 7.1% on the same period last year. May, June and July recorded the highest-ever number of care applications for these individual months.

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