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President-Designate of the Family Division expresses concern about care crisis

Lord Justice McFarlane welcomes new Care Crisis Review and calls for change

Lord Justice McFarlane who succeeds Sir James Munby as President of the Family Division next month, has welcomed the Care Crisis Review Report published last week and in doing so, made it clear that the number of care applications is a matter of considerable concern and that for judges and court staff the "workload, which prior to the rise was almost unsustainable, is now wholly untenable."

Sir Andrew indicated that "there may be a danger of the system slipping into the exercise of a broad benevolent discretion with courts accepting the need to help children who are generally in need, rather than strictly questioning whether the state of affairs for this particular child has indeed reached the level, which the architects of the Children Act clearly considered was required, sufficient to justify statutory orders."

He went on to say that, "….we have reached a stage where the threshold for obtaining a public law court order is noticeably low, whereas, no doubt as a result of the current financial climate, the threshold for a family being able to access specialist support services in the community is conversely, very high."

Sir Andrew also observed that the increased number of private law applications had to be heard by the same cohort of judges who were coping with the increased public law caseload and that he suspected that some of the additional public law applications may have originated from private law disputes. 

He emphasised the importance of pre-proceedings work including the need for genuine effort to deliver a "wake-up call to parents and divert them from the court process."

Sir Andrew also emphasised the need to "revitalise and refocus the work of the national and local Family Justice Boards."

For the full text of the speech click here.

For an extract from the Press Release for the Care Crisis Review Report and links to the suite of publications click here