Family Justice Review published

I haven’t had time to read it yet but here are the official headlines……will give you my views in the next couple of days. Please let me know what you think of it.

The Family Justice Review panel today published its final report which announces a package of recommendations aimed at tackling delays in the family justice system and to make sure that children and families are given the service they deserve.

The key recommendations are:

  • A new six month time limit in care cases so delays are significantly reduced.
  • Enabling people to make their own arrangements for their children when they separate, and only use courts when necessary.
  • Overhauling the family justice system so that agencies and professionals work together with greater coherence to improve the experience and outcomes for children and families.

These recommendations follow the independent review panel findings that the current system of family justice is under huge strain.  Rising caseloads coupled with incoherent organisation and processes are causing damaging delays for children and families.  It takes on average over a year for an outcome in a care case – far too long in the life of a child.  The backlog of cases in the public law system means today, around 20,000 children are waiting for their futures to be decided.

The panel recommend:

A simpler system to deliver an improved service:

  • The creation of a Family Justice Service to make sure agencies and professionals work together to make positive improvements in the system for children and families.
  • More judges who are specialists in family law to hear cases from start to finish to ensure consistency and confidence in the system.
  • A simplified court structure making it easier for people using the courts to know where to go.
  • More child focus and better training for professionals to make sure children’s views are heard.
  • Changes to public law (protecting children and taking them into care) to deliver more quickly for children:
  • A six month time limit for all cases, save in exceptional circumstances.
  • Less reliance on unnecessary expert witnesses and reports.
  • Refocusing the courts on the core issue of determining whether the child should go into care.
  • Changes to private law (arrangements about children and money following separation), to create a simpler service for families who are separating, aimed at helping them and their children focus on reaching a safe, joint agreement, if possible, without going to court:
  • A single online and phone help service to make it simpler for people to decide the most appropriate way forward and increase clarity of understanding.
  • Use of Parenting Agreements and a new ‘child arrangements order’ to bring together arrangements for children’s care after separation, focusing on the child rather than ‘contact’ and ‘residence’.
  • Increased provision of mediation to prevent cases going to court unnecessarily.

The final review has now been formally presented to the Ministry of Justice, Department for Education and the Welsh Government for consideration.

 

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