Figures released by the Courts Service show the number of children taken into care following court applications by the HSE last year averaged 43 per week.

Nearly 2,300 children were taken into care in 2011, an increase of 113% in a year.

Care orders allow the HSE to remove children from their homes on safety and welfare grounds.

The Courts Service Annual Report also shows 731 supervision orders were granted, up 33% on 2010.

The report shows trends in the type and volume of cases that go before the courts in Ireland.

The report shows business and finance related cases also increased substantially in 2011, with a 35% increase in judgments for the recovery of debt in the High Court, a 12% increase in applications to wind up companies, and a 13% increase in bankruptcies.

Orders for possession in the High Court were down 14% to 281, but up 15% at Circuit Court level to 353.

The report also shows orders at District Court level to imprison people for non-payment of debt decreased by 63%, although more than 1,000 such orders were still issued.

In 2011 the courts also dealt with an increased number of rape, theft, robbery and fraud cases, but fewer murder, drugs and road traffic related cases.

Net expenditure for the service has been cut 36% to €62m and staff numbers are down 11% to 958, while courts are busier than ever.

Chief Justice Susan Denham warned that further savings cannot be made within the service without impacting on court sittings.

She said they are putting contingency plans in place to deal with any further cutbacks in 2013 and 2014.

Referendum to establish new court planned

Meanwhile, the Government has approved the holding of a referendum to amend Article 34 of the Constitution in order to allow the Oireachtas to establish a new Court of Civil Appeal and a new Family Court structure.

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said the Government is also considering other Constitutional changes concerning Article 34 and Article 26.

This would address the possible provision of an optional secular judicial declaration to be made by judges at their appointment.

Consideration is also being given to allowing further Constitutional challenges to a Bill that has been ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court having been referred by the President, and to allowing the Government to refer international agreements to the Supreme Court before ratification for a ruling on their constitutionality.