The report, commissioned by Children’s Secretary Ed Balls MP in the wake of the Baby P tragedy, makes 58 recommendations for change, including abolishing the court fees for child care cases—which rose 3,000% in May 2008—from 2010/11.
It warns there has been an “over-emphasis on process and targets” rather than tackling risks, which has caused social workers to lose confidence.
Desmond Browne QC, Chairman of the Bar, commented: “The Bar Council has consistently warned about the effect of the enormous rise in court fees...on local authorities’ ability to initiate child care proceedings. It was inevitable that an increase from £150 to £4,825 for a fully contested matter would deter some authorities from acting.”
Justice Secretary Jack Straw has appointed Francis Plowden, a member of the Judicial Appointments Commission, to lead an independent review into court fees in public law cases to assess whether they do act as a deterrent in commencing care proceedings.
“If there is evidence that they are a barrier for local authorities when deciding whether to proceed with a care order for a vulnerable child, we will abolish them,” said Ed Balls.