Hi everyone and welcome to Bristol Grandparents Support Group blog. Although we are Bristol based we have grandparents from all over the UK and beyond as members.

It is estimated that over one million children in the UK are denied contact with their grandparents due to family breakdown which may have been caused by divorce/separation, alcohol/drug dependency,domestic violence,bereavement or family feud.
Every child has the right to have contact with their grandparents
if they wish and unless proven unsafe for them to do so. To deny contact from a parent or grandparent has to become as socially unacceptable as drink driving.
I hope to keep you up to date with what is going on in BGSG and I shall continue to campaign for the rights of children to have a loving and meaningful relationship with both parents and their extended family. So please join in as good to hear your views, not just mine!
I also will support via Skype.
There is no membership fee to be part of Bristol Grandparents Support Group.
Esther Rantzen says, " To every grandparent, links of love can never be broken in our hearts."

Please contact during office hours.

Thursday 31 March 2011

This is the recommendations of Family Justice Review.

iii Family Justice Review – List of recommendations

We strongly endorse the continuing value of the framework and core principles of the Children Act 1989. (Paragraph 2.21)

A Family Justice Service

There should be a Family Justice Service. (Paragraph 3.2) The Family Justice Service should ensure that the interests of children and young

people are at the heart of its operation. (Paragraph 3.4)

Children and young people should be given age appropriate information which explains what is happening when they are included in disputes being dealt with by the Family Justice Service. (Paragraph 3.7)

Children and young people should as early as possible in a case be supported to be able to make their views known and older children should be offered a menu of options, to lay out the ways in which they could – if they wish – do this. (Paragraph 3.12)

The Ministry of Justice should sponsor the Family Justice Service. There will need to be close links at both Ministerial and official level with the Department for Education and Welsh Assembly Government. (Paragraph 3.27)

Safeguards should be built in to ensure the interests of the child are given priority in guiding the work of the Family Justice Service. (Paragraph 3.28)

The Service should be led through a Family Justice Board and a Chief Executive. (Paragraph 3.36)

The current range of groups and meeting arrangements should be streamlined through the creation of the Family Justice Service to subsume the work currently performed by the Family Justice Council, Local Family Justice Councils, Family Court Business Committees, the National Performance Partnership, Local Performance Improvement Groups and the President’s Combined Development Board. (Paragraph 3.43)

Local Family Justice Boards should be established, with consistent terms of reference and membership. They should work closely with Local Safeguarding Children Boards. (Paragraph 3.43)

A dedicated post – a Senior Family Presiding Judge – should report to the President of the Family Division and the Senior Presiding Judge on the effectiveness of family work amongst the judiciary. (Paragraph 3.53)

Family Division Liaison Judges should be renamed Family Presiding Judges, reporting to the Senior Family Presiding Judge on performance issues in their circuit. (Paragraph 3.53)

Judges with leadership responsibilities should have clearer management responsibilities. There should be stronger job descriptions, detailing clear expectations of management responsibilities and inter-agency working. (Paragraph 3.54)

26 | Family Justice Review Information on key indicators such as case numbers per judge, court and area, case lengths, numbers of adjournments and number of experts should support this approach to judicial case management. (Paragraph 3.55)

There should be judicial continuity in all family cases. The High Court will be an exception but this should be limited as far as possible. This recommendation applies also to legal advisers and benches of magistrates. (Paragraph 3.60)

Robust case management by the judiciary should be supported with consistent case progression resource. (Paragraph 3.63)

Legislation should be considered to provide for stronger case management provision in respect of the conduct of both public and private law proceedings. (Paragraph 3.65)

Criteria should be established for the allocation of resource to the family judiciary and budgets should be set in terms of money, not in sitting days. (Paragraph 3.75)

Budgets, including family legal aid, should, over time, be consolidated into the Family Justice Service. Decisions on spending should also be taken at the most local level possible. (Paragraph 3.76)

Charges to local authorities for public law applications and to Cafcass for police checks should be removed. (Paragraph 3.86)

Court social work services should form part of the Family Justice Service, subsuming the role currently performed by Cafcass. These functions will continue to be a devolved responsibility of the Welsh Assembly Government, performed by Cafcass Cymru. But there should be a close working relationship between Cafcass Cymru and the Family Justice Service, underpinned by service level agreements. (Paragraphs 3.104, 3.105)

The Family Justice Service should be responsible for procuring publicly funded mediation and support for contact. (Paragraphs 3.106, 3.107)

Judges and magistrates should be enabled and encouraged to specialise in family matters. (Paragraph 3.113)

The requirement to hear other types of work before being allowed to sit on family matters should be abolished. A requirement for appointment to the family judiciary should, in future, include a willingness to specialise. (Paragraph 3.113)

There should be inter-disciplinary induction for all those working in the system and a clear framework for inter-disciplinary working for all those engaged in it. The Family Justice Service should co-ordinate the professional relationships and workforce development needs between key stakeholders. (Paragraph 3.118)

There should be quality standards for system-wide processes that build on local knowledge, are evidence-based and replicable. Compliance with practice guidelines should be reviewed regularly and this should include the role and performance of local authorities and wider users. There also needs to be a more co-ordinated and system-wide approach to research and evaluation. (Paragraphs 3.127, 3.128)

An integrated IT system, with the ability to support management of cases, should be developed. In the short term, current IT systems should be adapted in a cost effective manner. (Paragraph 3.142)

Family Justice Review Interim Report – March 2011 | 27

Robust performance information should be fed into the national and local boards, and the judiciary. (Paragraph 3.142)

A single family court should be created, with a single point of entry, in place of the current three tiers of court. All levels of family judiciary (including magistrates) should sit in the family court and work would be allocated depending upon case complexity. (Paragraph 3.151)

Some cases, particularly those with an international element or where, under the High Court's inherent jurisdiction, life and death decisions are made, should be described as being determined in the High Court, Family Division rather than in the single Family Court. (Paragraph 3.152)

Court hearings should be organised in the most appropriate location. Routine hearings should use telephone or video technology wherever possible, and hearings that do not need to take place in a court room should be held in rooms that are family friendly as far as possible and appropriate. (Paragraph 3.159)

The estate for family courts should be reviewed to reduce the number of buildings in which cases are heard, to promote efficiency, judicial continuity and specialisation. Exceptions should be made for rural areas where transport is poor. (Paragraph 3.161)

Public law

Courts must continue to play a central role in public law in England and Wales. But this role should be refocused, with changes in the ways of working that will affect the family justice system more widely. (Paragraph 4.144)

Courts should refocus 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. Other aspects and the detail of the care plan should be the responsibility of the local authority. (Paragraph 4.160)

A time limit for the completion of care and supervision proceedings within six months should be put into legislation. (Paragraph 4.176)

Cases must be managed and timetabled strictly in accordance with the ‘Timetable for the Child’. This concept needs to be redefined and given greater legal force. (Paragraph 4.185)

The Family Justice Service should manage the task of developing and maintaining the detailed criteria that will support judges in drawing up the Timetable. (Paragraph 4.192)

We propose a package of measures intended to enable effective and robust case control by the judiciary in public law cases:

- courts should strengthen the use of the case progression function; (Paragraph 4.206)

- courts must continue to work to apply the PLO. We intend at the next stage to consider the implications of our proposals for the PLO; (Paragraph 4.208)

- the requirement to renew Interim Care Orders after eight weeks and then every four weeks should be removed. Judges should be allowed discretion to grant

28 | Family Justice Review

interim orders for the time they see fit subject to a maximum of six months. The courts’ power to renew should be tied to their power to extend proceedings beyond six months; (Paragraph 4.210) and

- we need to develop the skills and knowledge of judges so they will be better case managers. We shall consider this in public law, in the context of wider workforce skills, in the coming months. (Paragraph 4.214)

The requirement that local authority adoption panels should consider the suitability for adoption of a child whose case is before the court should be removed. (Paragraph 4.212)

We support Professor Eileen Munro’s recommendations in ‘The Child’s Journey’ about how local authorities can contribute to reducing delays in care proceedings. (Paragraph 4.220)

We encourage use of the ‘letter before proceedings’. We recommend research be undertaken about its impact. (Paragraph 4.226)

We recommend that judges should be given clearer powers to enable them to refuse expert assessments and the relevant legislative provisions revised accordingly. (Paragraph 4.227)

Independent Social Workers should only be employed to provide new information to the court, not as a way of replacing the assessments that should have been submitted by the social worker or the guardian. The relevant rules should reflect this. (Paragraph 4.228)

Research should be commissioned to examine the value of residential assessments of parents. (Paragraph 4.230)

The development of multi-disciplinary teams to provide expert reports to the courts has merit. (Paragraph 4.233)

The judge should be responsible for instructing experts as a fundamental part of case management. (Paragraph 4.239)

The Family Justice Service should be responsible for identifying and commissioning experts, working closely with local judges to ensure a focus on quality, timeliness and value for money. Multi-disciplinary teams may well have value. (Paragraph 4.240)

The tandem model should be retained but it needs to be used in a more proportionate way. (Paragraph 4.247)

The merit of using guardians pre-proceedings needs to be considered further. (Paragraph 4.260)

The merit of developing an ‘in-house’ tandem model needs to be considered further. (Paragraph 4.261)

There need to be effective links between the courts and IROs and the working relationship between the guardian and the IRO needs to be stronger. (Paragraph 4.269)

There should also be more formal arrangements within local authorities to ensure that the most senior levels, including the Director for Children’s Services and the

Family Justice Review Interim Report – March 2011 | 29

Lead Member, keep fully in touch with how care plans are being implemented. The IRO has a potential role to play here. (Paragraph 4.270)

Alternatives to some current court processes should be developed and extended: - Family Group Conferences can be useful although their effectiveness needs

more research; (Paragraph 4.279)

- formal mediation approaches in public law proceedings may have potential; (Paragraph 4.285) and

- the Family Drug and Alcohol Court in the Inner London Family Proceedings Court shows considerable promise. (Paragraph 4.290)

Private law

No legislation should be introduced that creates or risks creating the perception that there is a parental right to substantially shared or equal time for both parents. (Paragraph 5.76)

A statement should be inserted into legislation to reinforce the importance of the child continuing to have a meaningful relationship with both parents, alongside the need to protect the child from harm. (Paragraph 5.77)

The need for grandparents to apply for leave of the court before making an application for contact should remain. (Paragraph 5.82)

Parents should be given a short leaflet when they register the birth of their child, providing an introduction to the meaning and practical implications of parental responsibility (PR). (Paragraph 5.86)

Parents should be encouraged to develop a Parenting Agreement to set out arrangements for the care of their children post-separation. (Paragraph 5.90)

Residence and contact orders should no longer be available to parents who hold PR, but disputes over the division of a child’s time between parents should instead be resolved by a specific issue order. (Paragraph 5.95)

The terms, forms and evidence required by the court should also be reviewed to reduce their contribution to conflict. (Paragraph 5.95)

A father without PR who wishes the court to consider the child living with him (currently a residence order) should first apply for PR, and then negotiate for this to be included in the Parenting Agreement or apply for a specific issue order. If a father does not wish to seek PR he is still able to make a contact application. (Paragraph 5.97)

The full range of the four orders under Children Act 1989, section 8 should remain available to non-parental relatives. (Paragraph 5.99)

An online information hub and helpline should be established to give information and support for couples to resolve issues following divorce or separation outside court. (Paragraph 5.114)

Provision should be made to ensure that a signed Parenting Agreement has weight as evidence in any subsequent parental dispute. (Paragraph 5.118)

‘Alternative dispute resolution’ should be rebranded as ‘Dispute Resolution Services’, in order to minimise a deterrent to their use. (Paragraph 5.123)

30 | Family Justice Review

Where intervention is necessary it should be compulsory for the parties to attend a session with a mediator, trained and accredited to a high professional standard, who should:

- assess the most appropriate intervention, including mediation and collaborative law, or whether the risks of domestic violence, imbalance between the parties or child protection issues require immediate referral to the family court; and

- provide information on local Dispute Resolution Services and how they could support parties to resolve disputes. (Paragraph 5.125)

Judges will retain the power to order parties to attend a mediation information session and may make cost orders where it is felt that one party has behaved unreasonably. (Paragraph 5.125)

The mediator tasked with the initial assessment will need to be the case manager until an application to court is made. (Paragraph 5.127)

The assessment will allow for emergency applications to court but the exemptions should be narrow. (Paragraph 5.129)

Those parents who are still unable to agree should next attend a Separating Parent Information Programme and thereafter if necessary mediation or other dispute resolution service. (Paragraph 5.131)

Mediators should at least meet the current requirements set by the Legal Services Commission. These standards should themselves be reviewed in the light of the new responsibilities being laid on mediators. Mediators who do not currently meet those standards should be given a specified period in which to achieve them. (Paragraph 5.135)

Where agreement cannot be reached, having been given a certificate by the mediator, one or both of the parties will be able to apply to court for determination on a specific issue. (Paragraph 5.139)

Safeguarding checks should be completed at the point of entry into the court system for cases involving children. (Paragraph 5.142)

The First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment (FHDRA) should be retained. Where further court involvement is required after this, the case will be allocated to a track system according to complexity. (Paragraph 5.146)

Where cases are on a complex track, the judge who is allocated to hear the case after a First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment must remain the judge for that case. (Paragraph 5.148)

Where an order is breached, a party should have access to immediate support to resolve the matter swiftly and the current enforcement powers should be available. The case should be heard within a fixed number of days, with the dispute resolved at a single hearing. If an order is breached after 12 months, the parties should be expected to return to Dispute Resolution Services before returning to court to seek enforcement. (Paragraphs 5.159, 5.160)

There should be no automatic link between contact and maintenance. When contact is continually frustrated and it is in the child’s best interests, the courts should have an additional enforcement mechanism available to enable them to alter or suspend the payment of maintenance. (Paragraph 5.166)

Family Justice Review Interim Report – March 2011 | 31

People in dispute about money or property should be expected to access the information hub and should be required to be assessed for mediation. (Paragraph 5.169)

Ancillary relief should be separately reviewed. (Paragraph 5.172)

The process for initiating divorce should begin with the online hub and should be dealt with administratively in the Family Justice Service, unless the divorce is disputed. (Paragraph 5.175)

The current two-stage process of decree nisi/decree absolute should be replaced by a single notice of divorce. (Paragraph 5.176)

Fees in private law should in principle reflect the full cost of services. However, this will depend on achieving a better understanding of costs, affordability and an appropriate remissions policy. (Paragraph 5.178)

No comments:

Post a Comment