Employment Tribunals Service and Family Courts

Ministry of Justice written question – answered at on 3 March 2022.

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Photo of Stuart Anderson Stuart Anderson Conservative, Wolverhampton South West

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what steps he is taking to increase capacity in (a) family courts and (b) employment tribunals.

Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice) , Assistant Whip

We continue to take action to tackle the impact the pandemic has had on our courts and tribunals system. We invested £250 million to support recovery in our courts in the last financial year (2020/21). This included £76 million to increase our capacity to hear cases in the family and civil courts, as well as in tribunals. The recent Spending Review has also provided £324 million over the next three years to improve waiting times in the civil and family courts, and tribunals.

In the family court, we sat to our highest ever level in 2020 – 54,830 days in public law and 71,832 days in private law. This is 9% higher than we sat in 2019 for public law and 5% higher than we sat in 2019 for private law.

We increased Cafcass’s budget by £13 million in 2021, so that they have more capacity and can manage the additional pressures caused by the pandemic. In addition, we have provided Cafcass with an additional £491,000 in 2021, to be spent in the areas of the country where their resources are most under pressure.

We are also managing demand in the family courts to ensure the capacity can be used most effectively. In March 2021, we launched a Family Mediation Voucher Scheme for those seeking to resolve private law matters relating to a child. Since its introduction, over 6,000 families have successfully used the scheme to access mediation and help resolve disputes outside of court. In January this year, we increased the overall funding for the scheme to just under £3.3 million.

In the employment tribunal, we increased the sitting day allocation from 30,000 in the 2020/21 financial year to 35,000 in the 2021/22 financial year. To ensure this capacity is used effectively, we established a joint ministerial taskforce last year with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, to reduce pressures on the tribunals and develop a joint plan for recovery. We have also established a virtual region of fee-paid judges able to hear remote cases from any region, which we expect to deliver more than 500 additional sitting days.

Across both jurisdictions, we have run ambitious recruitment campaigns to expand our judicial capacity and boost caseworker numbers.

We are also continuing to use remote hearings. This provides additional capacity to ensure cases that work well remotely can be heard quickly, while also freeing up space for cases that must be heard in-person. While it remains for the judge to decide whether a particular trial or hearing is suitable to be heard virtually, video hearings will continue to be a critical part of court and tribunal operations. For hearings that cannot be dealt with virtually, we have maximised the capacity of existing courtrooms by adjusting our estate to be Covid-secure.

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