The Ministry of Justice has published a report on research exploring the implementation and early impacts of the revised Public Law Outline (PLO).
The research was carried out between August and November 2013 shortly after implementation of the revised PLO. Research was based on workshops, in-depth qualitative interviews with family justice practitioners, and the results of an online survey completed by members across all Local Family Justice Boards in England and Wales.
The aim of the research was to explore the perceptions and experiences of implementing the revised PLO at a local level. Specifically, it sought to understand how the changes to the PLO were perceived to be affecting pre-proceedings work and court proceedings, and any impacts on the wider family justice system.
Key findings include:
- Practitioners were very positive about the drive to reduce the time that public law cases spent in court. Many felt the revisions to the PLO were a much-needed change, with better focus on children's timelines and their outcomes. Practitioners felt that the revised PLO and associated guidance and training had helped secure substantial progress in ensuring, where possible, that cases are completed within 26 weeks.
- It was felt cases were being conducted in a more focused and efficient way under the revised PLO. Children's needs were felt to be identified earlier in proceedings, with parties seen to be acting quicker and levels of delay, particularly in court proceedings, being reduced.
- Practitioners described challenges they had experienced during the early stages of implementation and many felt it would take time to adapt to the new requirements. However, practitioners believed that the positive aspects outweighed any challenges, and there were very good levels of engagement and motivation to ‘make this work'. Practitioners were keen to stress that the reduced timeframes had encouraged and facilitated joint working and improved communication between agencies.
- Practitioners highlighted some areas that may require further consideration. Some felt that the focus to complete cases within 26 weeks may not necessarily reduce the overall time that children are living in uncertainty. This may be due to a potential increased amount of time that cases spend during the pre-proceedings phase and because final orders made at 26 weeks may not always result in cases being closed.
The full report is available to download here.