HMCTS aims to digitise ‘large percentage of adoption application’ despite suspending reform project

The courts service last year decided to pause work on adoption transformation to focus on other priority areas for reform, including video hearings and immigration, employment, and social security tribunals

Despite suspending work on a wider reform project for adoption services, digitisation work will still allow “a large percentage” of applicants will be able to submit applications digitally, a minister has claimed.

HM Courts and Tribunals Service is in the midst of a long-term, £1bn-plus reform programme of the justice system across England and Wales. The service announced almost a year ago that it would be pausing work related to the reform of adoption and possession services, in order to better focus on priority areas including video hearings, case-management for civil and family tribunals, civil enforcement services, and tribunals for employment, immigration, social security, and child support cases.

But, according to Mike Freer, a minister at the Ministry of Justice with oversight of courts and Legal services, some transformation work has continued. This has focused on delivering technology that will allow the majority of applications to be made online.

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“The changes to the scope of reform of Adoption were made in March last year, as part of a wider adjustment to the court and tribunal reform programme,” he said. “There was a need to reduce the scope of the programme, in part due to challenging operational conditions caused by the pandemic, in order to be able to ensure successful delivery. For adoption, we reduced the scope to focus on the front-end digital application for cases where a child has been through care proceedings and placed for adoption. This is where the benefits for users – adoptive parents and local authorities – from having an accessible digital form were greatest. It will allow for a large percentage of adoption applications to be submitted digitally.”

The minister’s comments were made in response to a written parliamentary question from Labour MP Alex Davies-Jones, who asked about hundreds of thousands of pounds of losses recorded in the Ministry of Justice’s most recent annual accounts related to the decision to pause work on adoption reform.

“The change of scope in the adoption project meant that some of the development work on the asset was no longer required for use,” Freer said. “The cost of this development work was £873,000, which was disclosed as a constructive loss in the Ministry of Justice’s Annual Report and Accounts 2022-23.”

Sam Trendall

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