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Impact of the Family Justice Reforms: phase 3 - exploring variation across 21 local authorities

Research report

The Children and Families Act came into force in April 2014, introducing wide-ranging reforms to the Family Justice System. At the heart of public family law reform is the revised Public Law Outline (PLO), which introduced a 26 week timeframe for completing care proceedings. Since 2011, when the Family Justice Review was published, the average duration for the disposal of a care application has reduced from 56 weeks to 27.5 weeks (October-December 2015 quarterly statistics) (Ministry of Justice, 2015).2 Previous phases of fieldwork for DfE investigating the impact of family justice reform (Research in Practice, 2015a and b) found that professionals broadly welcomed the changes, while noting a range of challenges in implementing the revised PLO and in the impact of significant judgments (e.g. Re B-S).

The current study builds on these previous research projects. The aim of the current study was to explore the range of factors which may contribute to variation in the average care case duration of individual local authorities.