Family Justice Review 'Call for Evidence'
written by John Bolch on Wednesday, June 30, 2010
As part of the Government's Family Justice Review, the Family Justice Review Panel today launched a ‘Call for Evidence’ so that "anyone with an interest in the family justice system can contribute their views on how it can work better in the future". The call for evidence take the form of a questionnaire, which can be completed online. Questions the Panel is seeking views on include:
* How can the justice system focus more on helping family members to reach agreement rather than pitting them against each other?
* How best can the courts working with other agencies support children involved in the care system?
* How best can the system provide greater contact rights to non-resident parents and grandparents?
The evidence will be "carefully considered and used to inform the Review’s recommendations on how to improve the system". The final report from the review panel will be published next year.
1. What does the family justice system mean to you? What should the purpose of the family justice system be? What should not be included in the family justice system?
2. What should the role of the state be when dealing with family-related disputes that do not concern the protection of children or vulnerable adults? To what extent should the state fund this?
3. How effectively does the current family justice system meet the needs of its users? For example: Does it have the capacity to deal with all cases comprehensively? How could capacity in the system be increased? How efficient is the system? Does the system ensure equality and diversity?
4. Are there areas within the current system where we could adopt a more inquisitorial approach, whereby the court actively investigates the facts of the case as opposed to an adversarial system where the role of the court is primarily that of an adjudicator between each side? What are the options, and advantages and disadvantages, for: Private disputes arising from divorce or separation? Public matters, where the state intervenes to ensure the protection of children?
5. How far are users able to understand the processes and navigate the family justice system themselves? Are there clear signposts throughout the system? Do users know how and where to access accurate and timely information and advice? Is it readily available? What are the options to support/enable people to resolve these issues without recourse to legal processes?
6. How best can we provide greater contact rights to non-resident parents and grandparents?
7. How effective is alternative dispute resolution (ADR), such as mediation, collaborative law and family group conferencing? What types/models of ADR are more effective and for which circumstances? Does this differ according to cases? How could we improve it and incentivise its use and what safeguards need to be put in place?
8. To what extent do issues around enforceability of court orders motivate decisions to go to court? To what extent does it affect decisions within and outcomes of cases?
9. Are there elements of cases which could be considered outside of a court setting and if so by whom? For what type of cases would this be appropriate and what sort of settings might be suitable alternatives? What are the benefits and disadvantages?
10. Would adding a triage stage, whereby cases are assessed as to the appropriate course of action, make the system more efficient; i.e. by speeding processes up, ensuring resource could be allocated appropriately etc? In what areas might this be appropriate?
11. Do you think the Family Justice System is well organised and managed? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the current governance and management structures? Who should take responsibility for the decision-making process? Who should be responsible for the administrative running of the system?
12. What systems issues are there? eg how could things like IT, filing and administrative processes be improved?
13. Who should take ownership of cases when they are in the family justice system? Who is the case manager? And at which point do and should they relinquish responsibility?
14. How can we ensure that there is sufficient and appropriate accountability throughout the system?
15. How well do different organisations/partners in the family justice system work together to resolve cases? What can be done to improve this?
16. How clear are the different roles and responsibilities of those who are involved in the family justice system (such as the judiciary, legal practitioners, social workers, Cafcass officers, expert witnesses, administrators, Independent Reviewing Officers, court staff)? Are all these roles necessary? How effectively are these roles fulfilled?
17. How well do different organisations/partners communicate and share information (where appropriate)?
18. Where do you think there is scope to make efficiency savings within the family justice system?
19. What improvements to funding arrangements and mechanisms could be made?
20. Please tell us about your role in the family justice system. What value does this add to the family justice system?
21. Where should capacity and capability in the workforce be improved? How?
22. What qualifications and experience should be required for the different roles of those who work in the family justice system? What should be included in initial training and continuous professional development?
23. Are there sufficient performance management and feedback mechanisms throughout the system as a whole?
24. How could the system be improved to ensure it meets the needs of users and secures positive outcomes for children?
25. How can we ensure sufficient protection is afforded to vulnerable adults through the system?
26. In what types of cases is it important to hear the voice of the child to assist with decision making? How should the child's voice be heard in the family justice system?
27. How effective are Cafcass and CAFCASS Cymru? What should their role and remit be in the future?
28. What has guided your response to the questions posed above, e.g. personal experience, feedback from the public, specific research or evidence?
29. What can be learned from the way in which other sectors work which could be transferred to the family justice system?
30. Do you know of any good and innovative practice in the UK that the Review Panel should consider? What wider services could be tapped into (especially in the children's sector) to support the family justice system?
31. Is there anything we can learn from international examples?
32. What question would you have liked us to ask that we haven't posed and what would your response be?