The Government has recently published its quarterly statistical review of the Family Court. The statistics, which cover the period from January to March 2021, show a 7% increase in all cases which have started in the Family Court when compared with the same quarter in 2020. In total, 71,707 cases began within the period. Whilst there were increases in financial remedy (29%), domestic violence (15%), private law (5%), divorce (2%) and adoption (1%) cases, there was a notable decrease in public law proceedings which were down by 7% when compared with the same quarter in 2020.
Public Law Children
6,862 children were the subject of 4,088 applications for care and supervision orders during the period, a decrease of 7% compared to 2020’s quarter. Notably, the average length of proceedings to first disposal now sits at 43 weeks, an increase of 8 weeks when compared with the same 2020 quarter and the highest average since 2012. Only 22% of cases were disposed of within the statutory 26-week period.
Private Law Children
22,269 children were the subject of 14,976 applications, an increase of 5% when compared with the same quarter in 2020. The average length to final order is up by 10 weeks from the same period in 2020, taking the average length of disposal to 40 weeks.
Domestic Violence Remedy Orders (‘DVRO’)
8,974 applications were made for a DVRO during the period, consisting of 7,718 applications for a non-molestation order, and 1,256 applications for an occupation order. The applications reflect an increase of 16% in applications for a non-molestation order, but a 10% decrease in applications for an occupation order.
10,057 orders were made during the period, 9,554 non-molestation orders and 503 occupation orders, reflecting an increase in non-molestation orders of 16% with occupation orders down 15% when compared with the same quarter in 2020.
12,735 applications for a financial remedy were issued during this period, an increase of 27% when compared with the same quarter in 2020.
The impact of the pandemic continues to have a significant impact on family justice and the latest statistics are unlikely to be a surprise to those working within the system. A winter peak in Covid-19, starting in December 2020, and a further national lockdown, beginning on 4 January 2021, are likely to have caused further delay in the disposal of cases as professionals and parties alike have been forced to self-isolate causing many matters to be delayed and re-listed.
Whilst there has been a rise in the number of applications across most areas, it is perhaps surprising to see a decrease in the number of new public law applications. Whilst no explanation is provided within the Government’s report, school closures coupled with limited access to youth and health services is likely to have caused limited opportunity for professionals to identify safeguarding concerns and to make appropriate referrals.
The rise in DVRO’s is also likely to be explained by the on-going public health crises which has hampered victim’s opportunity to escape their abusers, whilst forcing many to spend increasing amounts of time together at home.
Whilst these statistics may appear particularly alarming, readers should bear in mind that the comparator, namely January – March 2020, was not afflicted by Covid-19 and resembled more ‘normal’ times. These statistics should therefore be approached with caution.
Deans Court Chambers
30 June 2021
Further information and analysis can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/family-court-statistics-quarterly-january-to-march-2021