I've never known a time like it. Here is a small selection of headlines from the last couple of weeks:
Barnardo's says court delays damage children
Family justice system to 'implode', warns top judge
Response to Baby P 'has pushed foster care network to the brink'
Call for ‘urgent action’ on children’s services
Family law supplier base ‘decimated’ by LSC tender
'Carnage' as family solicitors lose legal aid contracts
Family court service criticised over increased demand
Cafcass efficiency questioned by National Audit Office
So, is the entire family justice system about to collapse around our ears? I feel like I should write a long and detailed post setting out my answer to that question, but the truth is I just don't know. I suspect nobody really knows. We have, of course, had warnings of disaster previously, but the system has always creaked on. I suppose the most pertinent question is: Is there a 'breaking-point', and if so, what or where is it? Is it delay? If so, what level of delay is unacceptable? Is it a lack of a particular human 'resource' (legal aid lawyers, cafcass officers, social workers, foster carers etc.)? Or is it, as seems most likely, a combination of factors?
For now, in answer to the question as to whether the family justice system is about to collapse I must fall back on the cop-out answer: only time will tell. All that does seem absolutely certain is that there are even more difficult times ahead for anyone working for the system, and for all those unfortunate enough to be caught up within it. The challenges for those seeking to resolve these problems are clearly enormous.