Recent research suggests that the average length of care proceedings has been halved as a consequence of the 26 week timetable.  Care proceedings are those cases which involve Local Authorities and concerns are raised about abuse, for example, whether it is physical, emotional or sexual.

Since the advent of the Children and Families Act 2014, it has been a requirement for care proceedings to be concluded within a maximum of six months. Courts impose very strict timetables that demand an application by a Local Authority for a Care or Supervision order to be resolved in no more than 26 weeks. The Act extends to cover other applications and proceedings too and was a drive to reduce delay to proceedings that would previously take double the length of time to be resolved, and sometimes even longer.

The research, carried out at the Universities of Bristol and East Anglia, is the first to consider a detailed analysis of the Public Law Outline or PLO for short, on the decisions made by the courts. These are decisions of great magnitude and their impact significant upon the children concerned and their families. The proceedings can end with children remaining with their parents, with wider family, but can also end with placements in foster care, or adoption.

The study has made a number of findings, including that the 26 week deadline is not always met, and fewer care orders and placement orders were made, with more special guardianship and supervision orders.  It is said that the court has greater control and is making better use of external experts, who are often involved to provide opinion, such as psychologists, to help the court determine the best outcome for the children.  A second part of the study will examine how the children fared after the end of proceedings to help provide understanding about the effects of the shorter proceedings on children’s welfare the results of which will no doubt prove compelling reading.

At Stephens Scown we have a team of accredited specialists who specialise in all types of Private and Public children law. Legal Aid remains available for these proceedings so please get in touch with us to see if we can help.

Our family law team advises families across the South West on the best solutions for them. If you would like to get in touch with the team about this or any other issue you can telephone 0345 450 5558 or email