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Cafcass Section 31 Application Durations
The purpose of this document is to explain why courts and local authority may produce Section 31 application duration figure that differ to Cafcass. It is not expected that durations reported by different organisation will match exactly, but they should be within a reasonable distance of each other.
Cafcass currently reports across two databases, the Case Management System (CMS) which is a static database and ECMS, the current live database (from July 11th 2014).
Cafcass reports based on the following criteria and processes:
Each Section 31 care application and Section 31 supervision application that concludes in the time period being reported has a duration (not each child or each case).
There may be multiple applications on a case and all concluded section 31 applications are used in the average duration calculation according the quarter they concluded in. Consolidated applications (new applications made during proceedings) will entered on the existing case and will have their own duration as above.
LA is picked up from the application information entered in CMS/ ECMS, therefore proceedings that are transferred to another LA will still be counted as the LA that submitted the. When reporting by the LA field the applications selected are based solely on the LA field, regardless of the DFJ.
Court and the associated DFJ are picked up from the last entered hearing on the case. When reporting by these fields the applications selected are based solely on these fields, regardless of the LA. If the case has no hearings, the Court and DFJ will be picked up from the Application.
The duration is calculated from application issue to application completed date, where an application completed date is not available; the calculation will look at the case closure date. In CMS the completed date was set by entering the final legal output against the relevant hearing at which it was made. In ECMS the completion date is entered independently of hearings or legal outputs.
The calculation is made by counting the calendar days between these two dates and dividing by 7 ( the number of working days in the week)
Data is reported a month and a half behind the quarter concluding to allow system updates and to minimise changes in average durations when data is updated
No restrictions are made on when the application was applied for i.e. durations will cover pre and post revised PLO cases if they have closed in the quarters being reported on
Heat map data is provided for the last two quarters. To review previous quarters durations the excel table of durations should be viewed, which is accessible on the Cafcass website
Known differences due to method and systems:
MOJ/ HMCTS use child based duration data to allow for different outcomes for different children at different times
LAs often report based on families. Where applications are consolidated the duration for all children is then reported together
Possible differences in duration calculations e.g. workings days.
Naturally there is the possibility of human error in entering information into any of the databases used to monitor these durations.
If you have a query based on the duration Cafcass is reporting that you do not think is accounted for by one of the above differences, please first check your figures for accuracy and then ask that Cafcass do the same. If this does not resolve differences when the next quarter’s information is released, please request a more detail look at both data sets being compared.
Updated 25th February 2016