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Family Justice Review

The Family Justice Review is a review of the family justice system commissioned by the Ministry of Justice, the Department for Education, and the Welsh Government.

The family justice system is a network of organisations and individuals from many different professions all working co-operatively and collaboratively so that the system achieves its aims.

It is our aim to improve the system so that it is quicker, simpler, more cost-effective and fairer whilst continuing to protect children and vulnerable adults from risk of harm.

Interim report and consultation

The review’s interim report was published on 31 March 2011. It outlined a number of reforms to public and private law and the family justice system as a whole. The consultation on the report ended on Thursday 23 June 2011. The responses received are now being analysed and will inform the panel’s final report, which will be published in the autumn of this year.

The panel has also produced a Young People’s Guide, drawn up by the Children’s Rights Director, to accompany the interim report and encourage children and young people to feed their views into the consultation.

The need for change

The family justice system is under strain, with rising case volumes and lengthening case durations. The cost to the State is now around £1.5bn each year. Long and complicated legal processes are emotionally and financially draining for parents and distressing for children. Fathers and grandparents regularly tell us that they do not feel well served by the current system.

We believe we can and should create a better family justice system; this review aims to do so.

About the review

The Family Justice Review is examining the effectiveness of the family justice system and the outcomes it delivers, and will make recommendations for reform.

The review is:

  • examining both public and private law cases
  • exploring if better use can be made of mediation and how best to support contact between children and non-resident parents or grandparents
  • examining the processes (but not the law) involved in granting divorces and awarding ancillary relief, and
  • looking at how the different parts of the family justice system are organised and managed.

The review is aiming to produce a system which allows families to reach easy, simple and efficient agreements which are in the best interests of children whilst protecting children and vulnerable adults from risk of harm.

Within scope of this review

The agencies and professionals directly involved in the family justice system are all in scope for the Review, including:

  • courts
  • local authorities
  • Cafcass and CAFCASS Cymru
  • family lawyers
  • mediators, and
  • the Legal Services Commission.

The review will also consider their relationship with agencies and professionals indirectly involved in the family justice system such as children’s centres, health services and the voluntary sector.

How the review is being carried out

The review is being led by a panel of experts with an independent chair, David Norgrove.

Call for evidence

The first stage of the review was to carry out intensive fact-finding activity and formal evidence hearing sessions over the summer months. This started with a ‘call for evidence’ which ran from June to September 2010. This call for evidence stage enabled the review to take evidence from everyone involved in the family justice system: parents and children, families, professionals and representative bodies, regardless of their level of expertise.

Over 600 individuals and organisations have submitted evidence to the review during, and following, the call for evidence. The responses received were used to inform the panel’s interim report which is now the subject of a three month public consultation.

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