Despite promising to give children a greater voice in the Family Court the government still seems to be doing nothing, after it confirmed that the Ministry of Justice never enacted a policy allowing children to speak to judges.

This information came to  light after Researching Reform made a Freedom Of Information Request asking what progress had been made allowing children to speak to family judges about their cases. You can see the request and the Ministry of Justice’s full response, here.

We’ve added the section which confirms the government’s inaction, below:

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In 2014, the government pledged to make sure that children going through the family courts would be able to speak to judges about their wishes and feelings.

Whilst the Freedom Of Information response from the Family Justice Policy Division blames the last government for failing to implement this policy, that’s not quite right.

Dr Phillip Lee, who was appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Victims, Youth and Family Justice in 2016, confirmed that the current government was working on this policy only 4 months ago, in October 2016.

Dr Lee had this to say at the Family Justice Young People’s Board 2016 Voice of the Child Conference:
“Guidance on children’s participation in proceedings is key to the voice of the child agenda. It is vital that we get this right, so the judiciary, Cafcass and Ministry of Justice are working carefully on this.  We need to explore ways to balance children’s stronger involvement in proceedings about them, while also making sure the system continues to operate effectively at this time of increasing demand and pressure. We will, of course, listen to your views in getting that balance right.”

This begs the question – is Dr Lee lying about the government’s agenda on this policy or is the response to our FOI request a little shoddy?

Either way, we will be inviting Dr Lee to clarify the position. Twitter: @DrPhillipLeeMP

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