Head of Family Court Claims Austerity is Leading to an Increase in Children in Care


The highest-ranking judge in the family courts, Sir Andrew McFarlane, has stated that austerity measures have led to an increase in the number of children in care. He attributes this to cuts in local authorities, which have left social workers with limited options to assist families. Consequently, they often have no choice but to resort to court proceedings. As of March last year, the number of children in care in England reached a record high of nearly 84,000. John Pearce, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said that while the government has announced additional resources for children’s services, it does not resolve the longstanding issue.

In other news, calls for greater transparency in family courts have been made for decades. These courts have the power to intervene in personal family matters and their hearings are held privately. However, new transparency orders now allow journalists to report on court proceedings and speak to families while maintaining their anonymity.

Sir Andrew also discussed the issue of delays in the family courts, attributing them to Covid, an increase in separating parents seeking court intervention, and a significant number of self-representing individuals. To address these issues, the Ministry of Justice has announced a series of steps to help families resolve their differences without going to court, including legal advice and mediation. Sir Andrew expressed his approval of these proposals, particularly the plan to provide early legal advice. His primary objective is to reduce the time taken for cases to be heard.

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