Concluding Care Proceedings within 26 Weeks: Report of the Evaluation of the Tri-borough Care Proceedings Pilot, Updated Version

Chris Beckett, Jonathan Dickens, Sue Bailey

Research output: Book/ReportBook

42 Downloads (Pure)


• The Tri-borough pilot has been successful in achieving its key aim of reducing the length of care proceedings. The median duration of care proceedings was 27 weeks, as compared to a median duration of 49 weeks in the previous year, a reduction of 45%. Excluding FDAC cases, the median duration of proceedings was 26.5 weeks.

• The fact that the median length of proceedings is now around 26 weeks means, of course, that half the cases are still taking longer than 26 weeks. This should not necessarily be viewed in a negative light since some case-by-case flexibility about the length of proceedings is surely necessary in the interests of children’s welfare and justice. The pilot demonstrates that some flexibility can coexist with meaningful efforts to bear down on unnecessary court delay.

• Proceedings involving a single child were shorter (median 26 weeks) than those involving sibling groups (28 weeks). However, the small number of cases (five) where there were different outcomes for the children within the same family involved in joint applications took on average over 40 weeks, reflecting the complexity of the decision making in these cases.

• The pattern of orders made in the pilot year was broadly similar to that of the pre-pilot year, except for a slightly greater number of Special Guardianship Orders in the pilot year, and a slightly lower number of care orders only.

• Proceedings resulting in a care order, with or without a concurrent placement order, were shorter (median 24 and a half weeks) than cases resulting in an SGO (28 weeks) or in the child returning or remaining at home on a supervision order, with or without a residence order (29 weeks).

• The quickest outcomes occurred when the child was a new-born baby and the outcome was a concurrent care and placement order; the median duration of proceedings in these 9 cases was just 19 weeks. Planning for this was evidently being undertaken prior to birth, in order for cases to progress with speed once the child was born.

• The pilot has been successful in reducing the number of court hearings. Excluding FDAC cases in both years, the reduction was from a mean number of 5.2 hearings to mean of 4.0 (23% decrease).

• In the pilot year 71% of children remained in the same placement, whether at home, with a relative or in foster care, during the course of the proceedings. In the pre-pilot year only 42% were in the same placement during proceedings, with no move. The speedier resolution of cases is likely to benefit the child in terms of a reduced number of placement moves during proceedings, and is an additional positive outcome of the new way of working.

• There is no evidence that the reduction in the length of care proceedings has been achieved at the expense of more delay in the pre-court period.

• While many stakeholders expressed concerns about the potential for justice to be compromised by a rigid 26 week target, no one suggested that this had actually occurred.

• The case manager role was vital to the success of the pilot, and will continue to be vital in the future.

• Commitment and leadership in all agencies (local authorities, Cafcass and the courts), and robust court management by judges and magistrates, were vital to the success of the pilot and will continue to be vital in the future.

• Dedicated court time, and the availability of guardians at the initial hearing have been important to the success of the pilot. The reduction that has been achieved could not be sustained if court timetabling problems or non-availability of guardians were to hold things up. This may prove a problem in areas outside the Tri-boroughs, or in the Tri-boroughs themselves in the future if numbers of proceedings were to rise.

• Working in the new way does not necessarily take more time, but it almost certainly requires more energy. This is one reason why active leadership and monitoring of workloads and outcomes continue to be essential requirements.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationNorwich
PublisherCentre for Research on Children and Families, UEA
Number of pages57
Publication statusPublished - 30 May 2014

Cite this