Making a target work: messages from a pilot of the six-month time limit on care proceedings in England

Chris Beckett, Jonathan Dickens

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2 Citations (Scopus)
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Since 2014, it has been a legal requirement in England and Wales for child care proceedings to be concluded, apart from ‘exceptional cases’, within 26 weeks. When this was first proposed there were concerns that it might lead to poorer decision-making, or to delay being squeezed to either side of the court proceedings, before or afterwards. This paper reports on the messages from a pilot programme to hit the 26-week target that took place in London in 2012-13. The study compared the progress of the cases from the pilot year with those the year before, 180 cases in total, involving 256 children. The local authorities involved were able to achieve considerable improvements in timeliness, not just in the proceedings, but for the pre- and post-court processes too; and the quality and fairness of decisions did not seem to be impaired, in terms of the plans for the children and subsequent outcomes over a period of two years. ‘Targets’ do not generally find a warm welcome in the social work literature, but this paper shows that when collaboratively implemented, with a measure of flexibility and adequate resources, they can be an effective way of helping to achieve positive change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)390-398
Number of pages9
JournalChild and Family Social Work
Issue number3
Early online date20 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018


  • Courts
  • Outcomes in Child Welfare Intervention
  • Policy/Management
  • Children in Care System
  • Child Care/Statutory Agencies Work

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