14th View from the President’s Chambers: Care cases: Settlement conferences and the ‘tandem’ model

14th View from the President’s Chambers: Care cases: Settlement conferences and the ‘tandem’ model

The President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, has issued his 14th 'View' dealing with care cases, and setting out two new initiatives: settlement conferences and the 'tandem model'. The President's View also includes annexes as to the initiatives proposed. 

The number of new care cases continues to rise, seemingly relentlessly. Cafcass figures show that in the 12 months to March 2016 there were 12,781 new cases, an increase from 11,159 in the previous year (an increase of 14%). In the 4 months from April to July this year there were 4,959 new cases compared to 4,118 in the corresponding period in 2015 (an increase of 20%). The reasons for the increase are little understood and are currently being investigated. We must however plan on the basis that there will continue to be significant increases.

That is one reality. The other reality is that we are unlikely to see any increase in resources, judicial or otherwise.

Given the realities, we must continue to look for new, innovative and better ways of handling these cases, while never departing from the fundamentals, namely that:

  • Care cases, with their potential for life-long separation between children and their parents, are of unique gravity and importance.
  • It is for the local authority to establish its case.
  • Common-law principles of fairness and justice demand, as do Arts 6 and 8 of the Convention, a process in which both the parents and the child can fully participate with the assistance of representation by skilled and experienced lawyers.

I make quite clear: I will not countenance any departure from the fundamentally important principles which I sought to explain in Re B-S (Adoption: Application of s 47(5)) [2013] EWCA Civ 1146, [2014] 1 FLR 1035 and in Re A (Application for Care and Placement Orders: Local Authority Failings) [2015] EWFC 11, [2016] 1 FLR 1.

I propose in a future ‘View’ to deal with other ways in which we can and must improve how we deal with public law cases, for example, by continuing to expand the concept

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About the author:

Geraldine is Head of LexisPSL Family. She was admitted as a solicitor in 1992 and was in practice for 15 years, most recently as a partner and head of the family team at Hart Brown, a large Surrey firm.

Geraldine writes for Butterworths Family Law Service and is a past editor of the Resolution Review. She has been published in the New Law Journal, the Law Society Gazette and the District Judges’ Bulletin as well as in the national press including the Times and the Telegraph.

When in practice she was a member of the Law Society Family and Children Panels, and an accredited Resolution Specialist with a focus on advanced financial provision and pensions. A past Resolution regional secretary and press officer, Geraldine also contributed chapters to the Resolution publications, International Aspects of Family Law (3rd Edition 2009) and The Modern Family (2012).