The family courts are facing a ‘clear and imminent crisis’ because of the sustained increase in the number of child care cases, the Head of the Family Division warned.

In his latest View from the President’s Chambers, Sir James Munby said: ‘The fact is that we are approaching a crisis for which we are ill-prepared and where there is no clear strategy to manage the crisis. What is to be done?’

The number of cases has risen from around 6,500 in 2005/6 to about 15,000 this year, and Munby predicted that could climb to 25,000 by 2019/20.

He called for a national roll-out of the pioneering Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC), which seeks to address the problems that lead to many care applications being made.

Munby said the FDAC and similar projects are ‘the best hope, indeed, in truth, the only hope, we have of bringing the system, the ever increasing numbers of care cases, under control’.

Meanwhile, a study found that 37% of FDAC mothers were reunited with their children at the end of proceedings, compared with 25% of mothers in ordinary proceedings, and they experienced significantly less family disruption after being reunited over the three years after proceedings ended – 51% compared with 22%.

The study also found that many more mothers who went through the FDAC stopped misusing substances at the end of proceedings (46% compared with 30%).

Despite these findings, funding for the FDAC is due to run out in 2017.