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The Ministry of Justice has published its response to the Public Law Family Fees consultation which closed in March 2008.
The consultation described the Government's strategy for developing the fees system in the civil and family courts of England and Wales. It set out its proposals to make changes to court fees in relation to Public Law Children Act process and to make changes to fees for Adoption proceedings. The Government also sought views on how fees could be structured in relation to Care Proceedings.
In total, there were one hundred and eleven responses to the consultation.
The majority of respondents did not agree with the principle of full cost recovery generally, or more specifically in relation to public law children cases.
The Government responded by saying that charging for services provided by one department to another promotes the efficient allocation of resources, by providing paying authorities with a greater incentive to use services efficiently. It also said that charging for services provides greater visibility of the true cost and benefits of the services provided.
One hundred and seventy-seven comments expressed concern about whether adequate money had been provided to Local Authorities to enable them to pay for the increases.
In response the Government said that additional funding to cover an increased liability for court fees of up to £40m, has been provided for in the local authorities CSR07 spending settlement and built into the Revenue Support Grant totals. This applies to all three years of the settlement period (2008/09-2010/11) and will form part of the baseline for future spending reviews.
Thirty-three comments were received about children being at risk because of the increases to court fees.
The Government maintains that local authorities, through their childrens services departments, are under a statutory obligation to protect the interests of children. It believes that this will protect children as it would be unlawful for local authorities to avoid taking court proceedings for financial reasons.
The Government argues that the average cost to local authorities of a care case is £35,000 and it says it costs about £40,000 to keep a child in care for a year with the average duration of a care order being 6 years. It argues that if local authorities were influenced by financial considerations, these existing costs would be more significant than the new court fees.
The Government concluded that the respondents concerns were 'misplaced'. Not surprisingly, it has decided to proceed with the proposed changes, which took effect on 1 May 2008.
To read the full response to the consultation on the Ministry of Justice's website click here.