Public law data

Our public law data shows regularly updated statistics showing both national and local trends for:

  • the total number of public law applications
  • the number of care order applications made by local authorities and the number of children involved (monthly)
  • the length of time taken to complete care and supervision proceedings (quarterly)
  • the rate of care order applications by local authorities (annually).

 

Note: Cafcass demand statistics are published on the tenth working day of each month. Figures are provided from our national databases, the current electronic case management system (ECMS) and historical case management system (CMS). The ECMS is a live system and any late entries will be accounted for upon the release of subsequent updates to this data.

If you have any queries about the statistics, please contact us via our website form.

If a local authority has serious concerns about the safety or welfare of a child, it can apply to the court to take the child into care. Find out more information about care order applications.

Number of Public law cases received

  • Monthly statistics

    The number of public law cases received per month and the number of children involved nationally can be seen in the table below.

    Latest release: We received 1,383 new public law cases in December 2020 featuring 2,130 children; this represents an increase of 4.9% (64 public law cases) and a decrease of 0.6% (12 children) on the 1,319 new public law cases received and the 2,142 children on those cases in December 2019.

    You can download December 2020 public demand data, which contains the latest official statistics for public law applications.

    Public law cases received
    2016-17 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20 2020-21
    Cases Children Cases Children Cases Children Cases Children Cases Children
    Apr 1,596 2,541 1,394 2,352 1,461 2,427 1,506 2,474 1,361 2,247
    May 1,515 2,435 1,587 2,596 1,736 2,792 1,618 2,691 1,434 2,386
    Jun 1,641 2,754 1,705 2,782 1,485 2,490 1,454 2,363 1,558 2,531
    Jul 1,637 2,682 1,632 2,728 1,590 2,678 1,742 2,895 1,723 2,756
    Aug 1,613 2,666 1,631 2,650 1,616 2,630 1,500 2,461 1,457 2,395
    Sep 1,546 2,534 1,466 2,416 1,435 2,414 1,395 2,213 1,504 2,361
    Oct 1,482 2,440 1,600 2,653 1,641 2,704 1,626 2,636 1,555 2,443
    Nov 1,636 2,664 1,628 2,652 1,639 2,804 1,533 2,417 1,489 2,316
    Dec 1,393 2,311 1,357 2,224 1,309 2,131 1,319 2,142 1,383 2,130
    Jan 1,468 2,356 1,594 2,512 1,450 2,251 1,529 2,434
    Feb 1,509 2,498 1,581 2,598 1,419 2,303 1,403 2,326
    Mar 1,716 2,842 1,672 2,841 1,590 2,641 1,422 2,288
    Total 18,752 30,723 18,847 31,004 18,371 30,265 18,047 29,340  13,464 21,565 

     

  • Annual summaries

    April 2019 – March 2020

    • Between April 2019 and March 2020 Cafcass received a total of 18,040 applications

     

    April 2018 – March 2019

    • Between April 2018 and March 2019 Cafcass received a total of 18,365 applications

     

    April 2017 – March 2018

    • Between April 2017 and March 2018 Cafcass received a total of 18,847 applications.

     

    April 2016 – March 2017

    • Between April 2016 and March 2017 Cafcass received a total of 18,750 applications.

    Updates to this information is published on an annual basis.

Number of care applications received

  • Monthly statistics

    The number of care order applications received per month and the number of children involved nationally can be seen in the table below. Data broken down by local area (local authority) shows the number of applications and the number of children involved in them per quarter. This also shows the annual rate of applications in each local authority proportionate to the population of children in each area.

    Latest release: We received 1,003 new care applications in December 2020, which is 4.2% (40) more than the same period in 2019. These applications involved 1,592 children, which is 1.5% (24 children) more than December 2019.

    You can download December 2020 public demand data, which contains the latest official statistics for care applications.

    Care applications received

    2016-17

    2017-18

    2018-19

    2019-20

    2020-21
    Applications Children Applications Children Applications Children Applications Children Applications Children
    Apr 1,225 1,978 1,046 1,805 1,109 1,839 1,096 1,792 1,072 1,770
    May 1,160 1,902 1,196 1,987 1,302 2,060 1,166 1,928 1,065 1,743
    Jun 1,284 2,185 1,329 2,195 1,077 1,786 1,024 1,696 1,154 1,915
    Jul 1,307 2,142 1,246 2,117 1,233 2,055 1,239 1,999 1,228 2,005
    Aug 1,259 2,092 1,242 2,030 1,180 1,910 1,099 1,790 1,064 1,772
    Sep 1,235 2,058 1,107 1,867 1,063 1,747 1,009 1,614 1,090 1,753
    Oct 1,155 1,911 1,200 2,020 1,238 2,017 1,196 1,918 1,107 1,756
    Nov 1,295 2,129 1,227 2,018 1,203 2,046 1,102 1,720 1,091 1,738
    Dec 1,093 1,835 1,022 1,683 983 1,580 963 1,568 1,003 1,592
    Jan 1,136 1,809 1,172 1,859 1,059 1,617 1,090 1,729
    Feb 1,152 1,918 1,193 1,944 1,004 1,609 1,027 1,676
    Mar 1,298 2,177 1,241 2,092 1,126 1,850 1,087 1,727
    Total 14,599  24,136 14,221  23,617 13,577 22,116 13,098  21,157 9,874 16,044

  • Annual summaries

    April 2018 – March 2019

    • Between April 2018 and March 2019 Cafcass received a total of 13,575 applications.
    • This figure is 4.5 lower when compared with the previous financial year.

     

    April 2017 – March 2018

    • Between April 2017 and March 2018 Cafcass received a total of 14,222 applications.
    • This figure is 2.7% lower when compared with the previous financial year.

     

    April 2016 – March 2017

    • Between April 2016 and March 2017 Cafcass received a total of 14,599 applications.
    • This figure is 14% higher when compared with the previous financial year.

    Updates to this information is published on an annual basis.

 

How long care and supervision cases last

 

The target length of time for completing care and supervision (s31) cases, as set out in the Public Law Outline (PLO), is 26 weeks.

  • Quarterly statistics

    Cafcass collects data showing Case duration per quarter broken down by local authority.

    Cafcass produces ‘heat maps’ showing how each Designated Family Judge (DFJ) area is performing in relation to the PLO target of 26 weeks.

    Latest release: In Q1 of 2020-21 the national average for care and supervision (s31) application duration is 36 calendar weeks.

    Quarter 4 2020-21 Care Duration Heat Map

    Please refer to the DFJ Duration Trend file for historical information – DFJ Duration Trend History

    Note: The duration is measured from when the application is issued to when the application completes. Applications may be in relation to one child only, or many children. All average durations are presented to the nearest whole week and calculated from the total number of calendar days it takes to complete. See more details for how the calculations are made.

  • Annual summaries

    The average for 2019-20 so far is 32 calendar weeks, this is up by 1 week on the previous year.

    The average for 2018-19 was 31 calendar weeks, this is up by 2 weeks on the previous year.

    The average for 2017-18 was 29 calendar weeks, this is up by 1 week on the previous year.

    The average for 2016-17 was 28 calendar weeks, this is down by 1 week on the previous year.

    The average for 2015-16 was 29 calendar weeks, this is down by 1 week on the previous year.

    The average for 2014-15 was 30 calendar weeks, a seven week reduction compared with the average of 37 weeks for 2013-14

    The average for 2013-14 was 37 calendar weeks, an eleven week reduction compared with the average of 48 calendar weeks for 2012-13.

    The average for 2012-13 was 48 weeks, a nine week reduction compared with the average of 57 weeks for 2011-12.

 

National picture of care applications in England  

 

Cafcass produces annual statistics on the number of care applications received per 10,000 child population – the rate of care applications – by each local authority (LA) in England with children’s services responsibilities. The latest information available is for the years 2008-2009 to 2016-2017.

The rate of care application is significant as it helps identify trends in care proceedings independent of population growth. 

The below table shows the national rates of care applications between the year 2009-2010 to 2018-2019. You can also download the Table of LA rates of care application per 10,000 population.

2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19
National Rate 8.0 8.3 9.0 9.7 9.2 9.7 11.0 12.5 12.2 11.4

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