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Cafcass published its annual report for 2007-08 today. In 2007-08 Cafcass worked with a total of 77,134 children and young people. Additionally, Cafcass claims it supports many more children and families through the work it commissions from contact centres around the country.
In comparison with previous years, public law care applications to court have fallen during 2007-08 by 8.3%. Cafcass are monitoring if this fall in demand is only short term while local authorities adjust to the new requirements of the Public Law Outline which was introduced in April.
The annual report shows that in 2007-08 Cafcass received a total of 39,432 private law case requests.
In 2007-08, Cafcass' Family Court Advisors participated in 19,534 dispute resolution meetings, spending 72,704 hours on these cases, representing an increase in time spent on early intervention of 25.6% this year and an increase of 67.8% over three years.
Where agreements cannot be reached through dispute resolution, the Court may order a full report on the welfare of a child or children involved in private law proceedings. This is done under Section 7 of the Children Act 1989 and the court will clarify the specific areas for the Family Court Advisor to cover in this report. A private law case can involve more than one type of order and frequently leads to more than one Section 7 report. In 2007-08 Cafcass responded to 20,267 requests for private law reports, a reduction of 15.3% on last year's figures.
Cafcass has recently received harsh criticism for its performance. In January and May 2008 Ofsted published its first two inspection reports of Cafcass' regional performances and found serious failings and inadequacies. The Ofsted report published in January of the East Midlands Cafcass region concluded that, 'Front line delivery is inadequate and needs to improve urgently'.
Last month Cafcass announced its Chair, Baroness Jill Pitkeathley, will retire at the end of her five year term in December 2008.