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The county social welfare boards take too long to process child welfare cases

​The county social welfare boards' processing of child welfare cases takes considerably longer than the statutory requirements. In 2014, nearly 30 per cent of cases had a processing time of more than four months. "Lengthy case processing is an unnecessary additional burden on children and families who are already subject to severe stresses," says Auditor General Per-Kristian Foss.

Published 6/29/2015 11:00 AM

​Document 3:10 (2014–2015) The Office of the Auditor General's investigation of case processing in county social welfare boards was submitted to the Storting (Norway’s parliament) on 29 June 2015.

The Child Welfare Act lays down clear requirements for county boards concerning rapid processing of child welfare cases. The Office of the Auditor General (OAG)'s audit shows that while the boards generally comply with statutory case processing times in acute and appeal cases, so-called ordinary cases often far exceed the specified time.

Statutory requirements dictate that a decision should be made in the cases after just over six weeks. In 2014, nearly 30 per cent of the cases had a case processing time of more than 16 weeks.

The audit shows that the average processing time preceding a negotiation meeting increased from 75 to 89 days in the period 2010–2014. The audit also shows that the county social welfare boards have become more productive, and that the number of cases where decisions have been made has increased by approximately 30 per cent. There are major processing time differences within each board from year to year, as well as large variations among the 12 boards.

"This is a serious situation. In addition to the purely human toll, long case processing can also lead to more acute and appeals cases that put even more pressure on the system," says Foss.

While the main procedural rule is that a negotiation meeting must be held, a simplified procedure can be used under certain conditions. While around 25 per cent of cases are processed using a simplified procedure each year, there are wide differences between the boards with regard to the extent to which they employ simplified processing – in 2014 it ranged between 20 and 39 per cent.

"The county social welfare boards should do more to learn from each other," says Foss.

The OAG recommends that the Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion, in partnership with the National Office, assess which measures must be implemented to enable the boards to meet the legal requirements for case processing times.

The Minister of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion takes a serious view of the fact that so many of the ordinary cases had a processing time of more than four months. In her reply to the OAG, she described several initiatives that will contribute to more efficient and uniform case processing procedures.

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