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Toyota system halves care proceedings time

Three London boroughs implement “assembly line” system

30 October 2012

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Three London councils have halved the time it takes for care proceedings to go through the family court by implementing a time management system developed by the car manufacturer Toyota.

“Lean production” describes the assembly line system seen on car manufacturing floors that the boroughs of Westminster, Kensington and Hammersmith have implemented.

Andrew Christie, director of children’s services for Westminster, Kensington and Hammersmith told Radio 4’s Today programme this morning: “If you want to build a car well and have it run reliably and therefore satisfy the people who want to buy it you need to make sure that you bring together all constituent components than you need and you bring together at the right time, in the right place and absolutely crucially of the right quality.

“This was a principle that we thought we ought to apply to the problem that we have…which is the unacceptable delay that children are experiencing in care proceedings.”

Christie said the pilot scheme, launched six months ago, has so far been a success, with the time taken for care proceedings to get through court reduced by about half. However the national average is currently 49 weeks.

“We brought together all the key players: judges, social workers, court advisory officers, people who do the scheduling in court. We brought them together and asked them to talk about what their experience was,” Christie said.

Christie conceded that to any lay person this new process may look like an exercise of common sense, but he said it was “easy to get lost in the maze”.

The pilot is still in the early stages, but government interest is already piqued, according to Christie. “Not only does it deliver improved outcomes for children, it delivers savings.”

£1m a year in savings for the agencies involved could be upscaled to savings of £50m nationally, states Christie.

The need to implement time-effective processes has already been identified as a priority by the Family Justice Review.

Listen to the full interview with Andrew Christie here

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Marriage & Civil partnership