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Family Courts: Standards

Question for Ministry of Justice

UIN 157482, tabled on 21 April 2022

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what steps he is taking to reduce backlogs in family court cases.

Answered on

28 April 2022

We continue to take action to tackle the impact the pandemic has had on our courts and tribunals system. We invested £250 million to support recovery in our courts in the 2020/21 financial year. This included £76 million to increase our capacity to hear cases in the family and civil courts, as well as in tribunals. The recent Spending Review has also provided £324 million over the next three years to improve waiting times in the civil and family courts, and tribunals.

We increased Cafcass’ budget by £8.3 million for 2021/22 so that they have more capacity and can manage the additional pressures caused by the pandemic. We also provided Cafcass with an additional £491,000 to support work in the areas of the country where their resources are most under pressure.

We are maximising sittings from the judicial capacity available to work through our caseload. With the removal of Covid restrictions on 1st April 2022, face-to-face physical capacity is returning to business as usual during April although remote hearings will continue to play a part in the overall recovery effort.

Last financial year (2021/22) we undertook one of our most ambitious programmes of judicial recruitment ever, so that we can hear as many cases as possible. In the same year we lifted the number of days fee-paid judges can sit from 30 days to 80 for the second year in a row.

We are also managing demand in the family courts to ensure the capacity can be used most effectively to tackle the outstanding caseload. In March 2021 we launched a Family Mediation Voucher Scheme for those seeking to resolve private law matters relating to a child. Since its introduction, over 7,700 families have successfully used the scheme to access mediation and help resolve disputes outside of court.

In public family law, the outstanding caseload, by child, stood at 21,800 cases in January 2022. In 2021, average monthly disposals were roughly 200 more than they were in 2020. In private family law, the outstanding caseload, by child, in January 2022 stood at 83,000 cases, below the August 2021 peak of 85,000. In 2021, average monthly disposals were roughly 1,100 more per month than they were in 2020.