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Cafcass has deactivated prioritisation in four more family court areas


As a result of effective partnership working to address local challenges in demand, delay, and capacity, Cafcass has deactivated the prioritisation protocol in four family courts areas in the West Midlands.

Introduced in 2021, the protocol is the response of Cafcass to mitigate system-wide pressures caused by a combination of the increase in demand for its services, delay in bringing proceedings to a conclusion, and challenges in maintaining capacity.

The core aims of prioritisation are to ensure the timely allocation of all public law cases and higher risk private law cases; limit the caseloads of family court advisers; protect the capacity of managers to undertake management oversight and supervision activity; and thereby maintain the quality of the service experienced by children, families and the courts.

The four courts where prioritisation has been de-activated are:

  • Birmingham
  • Stoke-on-Trent
  • Coventry
  • Northampton

Deactivation in these court areas has been made possible by all partners at a local level working together to address the pressures on the family justice system.

Three court areas remain under the prioritisation protocol, Greater Manchester, Essex and Suffolk/Norfolk. Partnership plans are being developed to decide how and when to deactivate the prioritisation protocol in these areas.

Cafcass continues to manage a higher number of children’s cases. The number of active open children’s cases at the end of January 2023 was 33,240, which is 10.3% higher than it was in March 2020.

Cafcass has undertaken an evaluation of the prioritisation protocol. The evaluation found that the protocol has proved to be an effective way to manage high levels of demand, ensuring the timely allocation of public law cases and higher risk private law cases, controlling the caseloads of family court advisers and sustaining management support, supervision and oversight of the quality of practice. The Focused Visit by Ofsted in January, which focused on how Cafcass has managed increased demand, found that the quality of practice has been maintained and, in some areas, further improved.

An executive summary of the evaluation report is available here.