Hot off the Voice of the Child Conference, and now numerous statements from government officials looking to prioritise children in family proceedings, comes a report which claims that children’s interests are still not fully fixed on the government’s agenda.
Written by Dr Julia Brophy, Kate Perry, Alison Prescott and Christine Renouf, in conjunction with NYAS and the Association of Lawyers for Children, it aims to balance media access with the Voice of the Child.
The report highlights the need to ensure children’s privacy is safeguarded during the court process, at a time when more transparency is called for both within the family justice system and by the media at large. In it, the report suggests that Parliament should be able to scrutinise media access in such cases.
There are other suggestions, too. In relation to the current policy which is moving towards including Young people’s views, the authors argue that a full-scale consultation should take place to fully weigh up what is being proposed and what children think about the proposals. The authors also appear to indicate that this kind of research might be lengthy, given the serious nature of the issues at hand.
Young people questioned felt that children’s rights, views and interests were still not on the government’s agenda.
Given that Lord Justice Munby, the President of the Family Division is very aware of the need to balance right to privacy and public interest where children are involved, we are not sure whether this research is necessary, and too time consuming, when what we should really be doing is focusing on improving social work, expert training and getting children’s wishes and feelings in the mix when trying to work out what’s best for them. However it will be interesting to see how certain quarters respond to this report, particularly government sectors who seem to be focusing on child welfare for the time being.