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Inquiry launched into Family Justice Reforms

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A parliamentary inquiry has been launched this week into the family justice reforms proposed by the government in the Children and Families Bill. The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Child Protection, supported by the NSPCC, is launching the inquiry and calling for evidence to contribute to the debate on how the family justice system could be improved for children.

Over the past two years significant work has taken place through the Family Justice Review, which led to proposals in the forthcoming Children and Families Bill that were announced in the Queen’s Speech.

Meg Munn MP, Chair, All Party Parliamentary Group on Child Protection, said:

“There are key questions to be asked around the implementation of the proposals from the Family Justice Review. This inquiry intends to examine those questions and come up with constructive recommendations in time for the Bill to be scrutinised in Parliament.”

The inquiry will focus on specific areas of the family justice system that will be affected by the Children and Families Bill. The terms of reference are outlined below. The APPG intend to hold seminars in the autumn on three key areas of particular importance.

Call for Evidence

The inquiry would like to take written evidence from organisations and individuals based on the terms of reference (below). Evidence should be submitted in electronic format to shelley.hopkinson@parliament.uk

The APPG on Child Protection will be holding the first roundtable discussion on care plans on 5th September 2012 so it would be helpful to have any evidence in relation to this area by 31st August 2012. Any further evidence should be submitted by 21st September 2012.

The evidence should address some of the questions that have been posed in the Terms of Reference and the group would particularly welcome any data, real life examples or case studies. Submissions should be in Word format.

Terms of Reference

1- Care plans The Family Justice Review recommended that courts should refocus their scrutiny of the care plans on the core issues of whether the child is to live with parents, other family or friends, or be removed to the care of the local authority.

How can we ensure that care plans are of sufficient quality?

If the court role of scrutinising care plans is to be rolled back, how can we ensure sufficient scrutiny of care plans?  

How can existing structures in the courts and local authority be used to support the development of the care plan and ensure that the child has the best experience possible?

2- Six month time limit for cases The Government has proposed that there will be a time limit of six months by which most care cases should be completed. At the same time, the Government recognise that there will be exceptions to this and that some cases may take longer than this.

What are the circumstances when cases should last longer than six months?

How can courts decide which cases should fall outside the proposed six month time limit?

How can the legislation be framed to ensure that judgments are made with the best interests of children?

3- How can we ensure that court decisions are always taken in the best interests of the child? The Government have proposed to introduce legislation to ensure children have a relationship with both their parents after family separation, where that is safe and in the child’s best interests.

What more could be done to ensure that judges receive information about the impact of the decisions they make?

What best practice is there to ensure that children’s views are taken into account?

Is there a bias in family courts towards adults?

Timescale

The inquiry will hold a number of seminars and intends to report by December 2012. If you have any questions about the inquiry please get in touch with Shelley Hopkinson in Meg Munn MP’s parliamentary office by email on shelley.hopkinson@parliament.uk  


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