Britain’s top family judge has warned of even longer delays in care proceedings if the government fails to fully resource the family courts and children’s services.
Sir Nicholas Wall, head of the family division, told the House of Commons’ public accounts committee today that quality had not suffered as a result of increasing care applications but cases had been affected by longer delays.
There were problems with some social worker reports but this was also due to increased pressure and lack of resources, he said.
“The real villain of the piece is delay,” he said. “Cases are going to take longer and going to be delayed and, with resources stretched, the number of cases increasing and cuts on the horizon, I don’t see that improving. Yes, I fundamentally agree that delay is costly to children and should be avoided but this is a matter for government. If the government wants to avoid delay, it must make resources available.”
He said he had made the point to ministers that “anything they could do to improve the lot of social workers would be welcomed by the judiciary as we greatly depend on them and if their work is not done or is done poorly there is a delay”.
He added that in his submission to the family justice review he had called for judges to be able to monitor progress on a care plan once a child entered the care system.
The current situation made it difficult for judges to make care orders. “On the one hand you have to weigh up the harm to the child with the family but, on the other hand, you don’t like the care plan,” he told MPs
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