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Hannah Gannagé-Stewart

Deputy Editor, Solicitors Journal

Sir James Munby praises Cafcass data sharing strategy

Sir James Munby praises Cafcass data sharing strategy


Former president of the family division Sir James Munby has praised a Cafcass initiative, releasing data to researchers, as an ‘astonishing breakthrough’ for public family law. 

Speaking to the Westminster Legal Policy Forum last week, Munby referred to “mountain of anecdotal material” but lamented the lack of hard evidence.

Cafcass, the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, has anonymised its case file data and made it fully accessible to UK researchers for the first time.

The move is part of a strategy to share knowledge and learning with partners, such as the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory (FJO) (of which Munby is chair), in a bid to gain a better understanding of family justice issues and the needs of families in court proceedings.

The data has been transferred via a secure anonymised information linkage (SAIL) databank and includes case file data from Cafcass and Cafcass Cymru.

The data exchange is a joint project between Nuffield FJO, the Centre for Child and Family Justice Research at Lancaster University and the SAIL Databank at Swansea University.

The data includes the number of cases in which Cafcass was asked by the courts to carry out work in private law cases, the number of care order applications made by local authorities and the rate of care order applications.

It also sheds light of the length of time taken to complete care and supervision proceedings each quarter.

Cafcass chief executive Jacky Tiotto said: “We hope to improve our understanding about what makes the most positive difference in children’s lives and to build this knowledge into future reform.

“The more evidence-based expertise we have about children, their families and their pathways through the family justice system, the better we can support them and ensure they receive the help and support they need.”

Nuffield Family Justice Observatory director Lisa Harker added: “This partnership represents a step-change; there is now an opportunity to shed light on how the system is working. It will help to improve evidence-informed decision-making, with the ultimate goal of delivering better outcomes for children and families.”