Public law data

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.

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

  • the number of care order applications made by local authorities (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 care demand statistics are published on the eighth 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). In public law the unit of measurement is a s31 care application. These are counted upon receipt of the application from the court and entry into the database. The ECMS is a live system and any late entries will be accounted for upon the release of subsequent updates to this data.

Media enquiries: about care statistics should be directed to the Communications Team via [email protected] or 07768796484.


Number of care order applications

  • Monthly statistics

    The number of care order applications received per month 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: In March 2018, Cafcass received a total of 1,238 care applications. This figure represents a 3.5% increase in comparison with February 2018 and is the second highest monthly total for a March on record.

    You can also download March care application demand statistics 2018, which contains the latest official statistics for care applications.

    Care application demand March 2018


    Care applications received

    2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18
    Apr 919 806 956 1,225 1,045
    May 983 873 924 1,160 1,195
    Jun 853 880 1,115 1,284 1,330
    Jul 877 1,022 1,123 1,307 1,244
    Aug 828 903 941 1,259 1,240
    Sep 843 913 985 1,235 1,107
    Oct 978 1,010 1,090 1,155 1,198
    Nov 825 890 1,036 1,295 1,228
    Dec 815 932 1,103 1,094 1,014
    Jan 889 893 1,045 1,135 1,172
    Feb 891 967 1,239 1,152 1,196
    Mar 919 1,070 1,235 1,298 1,238
    Total 10,620 11,159 12,792 14,599 14,207


  • Annual summaries

    April 2017 – March 2018

    • Between April 2017 and March 2018 Cafcass received a total of 14,207 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.


    April 2015 – March 2016

    • Between April 2015 and March 2016 Cafcass received a total of 12,792 applications.
    • This figure is 15% higher when compared with the previous financial year.


    April 2014 – March 2015

    • Between April 2014 and March 2015 Cafcass received a total of 11,159 applications.
    • This figure is 5% higher when compared with the previous financial year.


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.

    Please note: this changed from previous information provided, which was based solely on care applications.

    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 Q2 of 2017-18 the national average for care and supervision (s31) application duration is 31 calendar weeks.

    DFJ Q3 1718 heat map

    Only maps that have been updated are available. Please refer to the DFJ Duration Trend file for historical information (see below).

    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 2016-17 was 29 calendar weeks, this is down by 1 week on the two previous years.

    The average for 2015-16 was 30 calendar weeks, this is the same as the average duration for 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 2016-2017. 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
National rate 8.0 8.3 9.0 9.7 9.2 9.7 11.0 12.5

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