Trends over time
- Although there has been an overall reduction in new applications for public and private proceedings following the Covid-19 pandemic that started in March 2020, the long-term trend over the last five years has been for an increase in the number of children and young people we work with each year from 127,670 children in 2017/18 to 143,469 in 2022/23, an increase of 12.4%.
- The biggest increases have been in private law proceedings. We worked with 97,098 children in private law proceedings in 2022/23 compared with 82,818 in 2017/18, an increase of 17.2%
- Around 2/3 of the children we work each year are involved in private law proceedings and 1/3 are involved in public law proceedings. But the percentage of children involved in private law proceedings has increased from 64.9% in 2017/8 to 67.7% in 2022/23.
- The number of children’s cases open to Cafcass at any point in time has also increased over time. At the end of March 2023, there were 32,904 open children’s cases compared to 26,497 in March 2018, an increase of 24%. Most of this increase has been the result of the Covid-19 pandemic and is due to the reduction in final hearings and cases closing as the work in the family courts slowed down during Covid-19.
- The considerable pressure on the family courts means children and families are in proceedings for longer, and this has become particularly acute since the Covid-19 pandemic. We produce quarterly data for the length of time we work with children and families in public law Section 31 proceedings. The average length of time we worked with families in public law s31 applications increased from 30 weeks (Q4 2017/18) to 44 weeks (Q1 2023/24).
Cafcass private law and public law demand statistics are published on the tenth working day of each month. If you have any queries about the statistics, please contact us via our website form.
1 April – 31 October 2023
- In October 2023, Cafcass received 5,054 new children's cases (7,751 children).
- The average daily demand level in October 2023 was 230 children's cases per working day compared to 231 children's cases received per working day during October 2022.
- The number of open outstanding children's cases at the end of October 2023 remains at high levels (30,585 children's cases); this is +1.5% / +449 children's cases compared to March 2020. There are currently 49,349 children on open children's cases.
For the financial year to date (April 2023 – October 2023), the main changes are:
- A decrease in total case demand (-0.7% / -235 children's cases compared to the same period last year)
- A decrease in public law children's cases (-3.2% / -305 children's cases)
- An increase in private law children's cases (+0.3% / +70 children's cases)
Public law children’s cases (Financial year: April 2023 to October 2023)
Between 1 April 2023 and 31 October 2023, Cafcass received 9,283 new public law children’s cases, involving 14,841 children.
S31 Care Applications (Financial year: April 2023 to October 2023)
Between 1 April 2023 and 31 October 2023, Cafcass received 6,581 new S31 Care Applications, involving 10,869 children.
There has been a decrease of 467 S31 care applications compared to the same period last year (-6.6%) and represents a decrease of 627 children on total applications received during the financial year. On average, Cafcass has received 940 new care applications per month, involving an average of 1,553 children.
Our public law data shows regularly updated statistics covering both national and local trends for:
- the total number of public law cases
- 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)
- number of care order applications by local authorities in England (quarterly)
- the rate of care order applications per ten thousand children population by local authorities in England (annually).
View our public law demand spreadsheet, which includes open children’s cases.
Private law children’s cases (Financial Year: April 2023 to October 2023)
Between 1 April 2023 and 31 October 2023, Cafcass received 23,210 new private law children’s cases, involving 35,332 children.
Private law demand is generally used to refer to applications made following a divorce or separation about the arrangements for children, such as where a child will live or with whom a child will spend time.
View our private law demand spreadsheet, which includes open children’s cases.
Open children’s cases (October 2023 snapshot)
There are currently 30,585 open children’s cases. This is 3,264 fewer children's cases (-9.6%) than the same time last year. These children’s cases involve 49,349 children, which is 6,056 (-10.9%) fewer children compared to the same month last year.
Open children’s cases have decreased in comparison to the end of the previous financial year. Cafcass had 11,950 open public law children's cases at the end of October 2023, involving 21,085 children. This is -1,752 children's cases (-12.8%) and -3,225 children (-13.3%) compared to the same month last year.
Cafcass had 18,635 open private law children's cases at the end of October 2023, involving 28,264 children. This is -1,512 children's cases (-7.5%) and -2,831 children (-9.1%) compared to the same month last year.