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CAFCASS

Volume 449: debated on Wednesday 19 July 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) how many private law cases were completed by CAFCASS in (a) 2004-05 and (b) 2005-06; (83252)

(2) what the average yearly work load was for a guardian ad litem in each of the last five years.

These are matters for the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, CAFCASS. Anthony Douglas, the chief executive, has written to the hon. Member with this information and a copy of his reply has been placed in the House Library.

Letter from Anthony Douglas, dated 14 July 2006:

Parliamentary Questions Concerning CAFCASS

I am writing to you in response to the two parliamentary questions that you tabled recently.

PQ83252—how many private law cases were completed by CAFCASS in (a) 2004-05 and (b) 2005-06.

Private law reports completed by CAFCASS were as follows:

Number

2004-05

29,761

2005-06

25,290

PQ83256— what was the average yearly workload for a Guardian ad Litem in each of the last five years.

CAFCASS practitioners cover public and private law cases. Some other work, such as adoption cases, can be the subject of either a public or a private law case.

Based on previous years calculations, the average workload for each individual practitioner at any one time is as follows:

Number

Care (public)

10

8

6

4

0

Other non-care (private)

0

6

13

20

26

The duration for each care case (from application to final order) will affect the number at any one time. For the purpose of this comparison, a care case is assumed to take 52 weeks. The Public Law Judicial Protocol aims to see all cases completed within 40 weeks, and this target will be supported by the recommendations of the recent review of Care Proceedings, once implemented.

Average workloads in CAFCASS are changing considerably due to changes in working practices underway, such as the rapid rise in the amount of practitioner time going into dispute resolution work in private law cases. Other reforms, such as writing shorter more analytical reports, also aim to increase productivity and the number of cases a practitioner can deal with at any one time within a reasonable caseload.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) what staff redundancies in the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service are projected during 2006-07; (83057)

(2) what savings the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service will be making during 2006-07; and what assessment has been made of the impact of these savings.

[holding answer 6 July 2006]: These are matters for the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, CAFCASS. Anthony Douglas, the Chief Executive, has written to the hon. Member with this information and a copy of his reply has been placed in the House Library.

Letter from Anthony Douglas, dated 14 July 2006:

I am writing to you in response to the two parliamentary questions that you tabled recently.

PQ83057—what staff redundancies in CAFCASS are projected during the current financial year.

CAFCASS has no plans for redundancies in the current financial year. I anticipate that savings targets can be achieved through increased productivity and efficiency savings.

PQ83058—what savings CAFCASS will be making during the current financial year; and whether there has been an assessment of the impact of these savings.

CAFCASS’s budget in the current financial year has the same baseline as last year. Savings of £4.5 million will need to be made to balance the budget. We have received an extra £4.7 million funding from DfES for this financial year only, to help with our change programmes. This will help us to develop our IT systems, to roll out our new case management information system across all our offices, and to reform our working practices where this is needed. The bulk of savings will be made through efficiency measures, such as procurement savings and more efficient working of cases.

The impact of savings targets and measures is being kept under constant review, both at Board and Executive level.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) what plans he has to upgrade IT systems within the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service in 2006-07; (83403)

(2) what plans he has for the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service training budget for 2006-07;

(3) what the average time taken to complete a Section 7 report in private law was in the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service in the latest period for which figures are available;

(4) how many cases are on the waiting list in public law in the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, broken down by region;

(5) what average length of time was taken to complete a Section 7 case with private law in the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service in each of the last 12 months.

[holding answer 10 July 2006]: These are matters for the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, CAFCASS. Anthony Douglas, the Chief Executive, has written to the hon. Member with this information and a copy of his reply has been placed in the House Library.

Letter from Anthony Douglas, dated 14 July 2006:

Parliamentary Questions Concerning CAFCASS

I am writing to you in response to the five parliamentary questions that you tabled recently.

PQ83403—what plans he has to upgrade IT systems within the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service in 2006-07.

During 2006/07 CAFCASS will be upgrading its IT network and moving to a more up to date Internet Protocol Over Virtual Private Network system which will improve functionality and allow for further development across a range of IT-enabled initiatives. This will support the roll out of our new Case Recording System, document management systems and will support mobile/flexible working. This is a major development programme with a detailed implementation plan. Completion of all programmes is expected by April 2007.

PQ83404—what plans he has to freeze the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service training budget for 2006-07.

An additional £500,000 has been put into the CAFCASS training budget in 2006-07, thereby increasing spend on training to £1.22 million. This does not include staff time, which is an additional support at both the national and regional levels.

PQ83405—what the average time taken to complete a Section 7 report in private law was in the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service in the latest period for which figures are available.

This figure is not kept as a statistic or performance indicator. The notional average for purposes of workload calculation is 25 hours, though with the complexity of cases increasing, this is likely to be an underestimate. A great number of cases that were once the subject of s7 reports are now dealt with earlier and quicker in our dispute resolution programmes. This in turn means the fewer cases subject to s7 reports are those much harder to resolve, and consequently, they take longer. In practice, the variation in cases is large, between 20 hours at the lower end and over 100 hours for the hardest cases.

PQ83521—how many cases are on the waiting list in public law in the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, broken down by region.

Our latest figure for this, at the end of May 2006, was as follows:

CAFCASS Public Law Unallocated Cases Snapshot, End May 2006

Region

Public Law Unallocated Cases

Total Workload

Percentage of Total Workload

East Midlands

0

621

0.0

Eastern

30

962

3.1

Greater London

89

2,358

3.6

North East

32

663

4.8

North West

21

1,444

1.5

South East

42

838

5.0

South West

6

989

0.6

Southern

6

868

0.7

West Midlands

37

1,289

2.9

Yorkshire and Humberside

11

1,301

0.8

National Total

274

11,333

2.4

Our Key Performance Indicator for this is that no more than 3% of public law cases should be unallocated at month end.

PQ83522—what average length of time was taken to complete a Section 7 case with private law in the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service in each of the last 12 months.

In respect of cases received and completed during the period 1 January 2006 to 31 May 2006, the average duration of a s7 Report (working days) by regions was as follows:

Region

Number of Days

East Midlands

75

Eastern

65

North East

63

North West

45

South East

68

South West

58

Southern

90

West Midlands

71

Yorkshire

64

Giving a National Average of 63 days.

We do not keep statistics of how many weeks or months these days represent. Cases vary in the length they take for a range of reasons, such as their complexity, and the requirements of all the other cases an individual practitioner holds on their caseload at any given time.