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National deprivation of liberty court: Latest data trends – April 2023

In July 2022 the President of the Family Division launched the national deprivation of liberty court. Based at the Royal Courts of Justice, it deals with all new applications seeking authorisation to deprive children of their liberty under the inherent jurisdiction and will run for a 12-month pilot phase initially. Nuffield Family Justice Observatory was invited to collect and publish data on these applications. 

Since July 2022, we have published monthly briefings highlighting high level data trends: July and August, September, October, November, December, January, February and March.

This briefing highlights high-level data trends during the first ten months of the court pilot. 

About the data

The data reported in this briefing relates to all applications issued by the national deprivation of liberty court. It covers information included on the C66 application form – the form used to apply for an order under the high court inherent jurisdiction in relation to children. Data is extracted and recorded by court staff and analysed by Nuffield Family Justice Observatory.

Data caveats and limitations

Data is extracted on a monthly basis from a live data-recording system and reflects the most accurate information at the time of analysis; however figures are subject to revision. In some instances, data may be missing if it is not recorded on the application form. Missing data is excluded from analyses.

We report data at the application level. This may mean that if the same child is subject to more than one application, or the local authority makes multiple applications within a case, some children may appear in the data more than once. 

Data relating to the number of deprivation of liberty applications is not available from another data source and it is therefore not possible to compare our data to alternative records. Due to potential differences in recording systems, caution should be exercised in comparing data from the national DoL court to data collected via different sources in previous years. 

In the monthly data briefings, we are limited in reporting on information recorded in the application form only – this provides an indication of how many applications are being made each month but does not provide detailed information about the children subject to deprivation of liberty applications or the outcome of applications. Alongside this briefing we have published the first detailed report on the needs and characteristics of children subject to deprivation of liberty applications. Read this report HERE

How many applications are there each month?

In some cases, a ‘repeat’ application is issued within the same case – for example, to extend an existing order or to vary the current order (e.g. if the child moves placement or additional restrictions on their liberty are sought). So far, there have been 76 ‘repeat’ applications. 

This means that a total of 1069 children have been subject to DoL applications at the national DoL court since 4 July (including a very small number of applications for sibling groups). 

On average, there have been 116 applications per month, with the highest number of applications issued in March 2023 (142 applications). In the most recent month, April 2023, there were 88 applications. 

The applications were made by 151 different local authorities and 21 other applicants (usually hospital or mental health trusts). Those issued by hospital trusts are usually to authorise restrictions of children’s liberty in hospital when the child may not be in the care of the local authority, or where the local authority is also a party in the case.

How does the number of applications vary by region?

Between July 2022 and April 2023, just over a fifth (21.5%) of all applications were made by local authorities in the North West of England, followed by 17.2% of applications from local authorities in London. Local authorities in the North East have made the fewest number of applications (3.5% of the total). This pattern of regional variation has broadly remained the same since July.

There are multiple possible explanations for this variation, including variation in the number of children in care, variation in the needs of children and families, and variation in access to and the availability of residential or other specialist provision. In December’s briefing report we provide further commentary and analysis on regional variation in applications to the DoL court. Read this briefing HERE

How old are the children?

The majority of children (58.6%) involved in applications were aged 15 and above, with a small minority relating to children under the age of 13 (9.4%).

What gender are the children?

The number of girls and boys subject to applications is almost equal – a pattern that has broadly remained consistent month-by-month during the first six months of the DoL court.

Further analysis

Our previous monthly briefings:

Read our first detailed report on the needs of the children subject to deprivation of liberty applications in the national DoL court HERE