The Nuffield Foundation has launched a new survey today which hopes to collect in-depth information about remote court hearings in family cases.
The survey, which asks for practitioners inside the sector to share their views, also has a dedicated section for parents.
The home page for the survey explains that the consultation aims to understand better “how family justice practice has been shaped by COVID-19 – how approaches have changed, where this has resulted in positive practice innovation and what challenges and difficulties have emerged.”
Nuffield has enlisted the help of the Parents, Families and Allies Network (PFAN) to process the responses submitted by parents. PFAN, is lead by emeritus professor of social work, Andy Bilson and Taliah Drayak.
The survey comes after the foundation carried out a rapid response consultation on remote hearings in the family courts.
The consultation will remain open until 30th September, 2020.
The Domestic Abuse Commissioner for England and Wales said children witnessing domestic violence would be unlikely to get the support they needed because of significant gaps in children’s services, in a socially distanced House of Commons discussion about the Domestic Abuse Bill held in June.
In her answer, Jacobs explained that children living with domestic violence would be unlikely to meet the threshold for support, which she said would surprise members of the public.
The Domestic Abuse Commissioner went on to criticise the family courts for failing to understand domestic abuse, despite playing a pivotal role in handling such cases.
On the family court’s current working methods for processing domestic abuse cases she said, “I would not like someone to make decisions about my children based on very little evidence and a short assessment, but that is what we often ask the family courts to do, in respect of cross-examination or any number of things that will happen.”
” I just worry that we need a much broader ambition for our family courts to really understand exactly the breadth of what is happening, and not confine them to wanting domestic abuse to be proven in a particular way,” she added.
Emma Petty, the Service Manager for the HMCTS reform project, said, “It’s really important to treat that case management system they have access to as the digital file, and have all of the information in the one place that everyone can access.”
Ms Petty was responding to a series of questions posed by Researching Reform at the seminar. When asked about whether cases would be vetted to see if they were appropriate, Ms Petty said there would be “an element of validation” to the digital process.
However, emergency applications will be unrestricted under the new service, allowing councils to submit such applications without any scrutiny.
A government consultation proposing to extend some of the controversial regulations which relax local authority duties and responsibilities towards children in care has found that most respondents agree with the proposal.
Critics said the consultation should have sought views on all possible solutions to keep child services up and running during the COVID-19 pandemic, instead.
In an effort to boycott the consultation, several organisations asked the sector not to submit responses, calling the consultation null and void.
The regulations, which were brought in to remove perceived pressures from the social care sector during lockdown, led to an outcry inside the sector after it was revealed that the government had not consulted with overseeing bodies before implementing the changes.
Child welfare bodies say the regulations, which allow local authorities to skip past vital document gathering during the adoption process and insist on virtual contact during lockdowns despite guidance stating face to face contact is allowed, place children at risk of harm.
While the document offers a breakdown of the type of response it received, categorising them as individuals, local authorities, charities and other organisations, and a further breakdown of which organisations responded, it does not give the names of individuals who took part.
The majority of respondents were individuals (91), making up almost half of those who submitted views to the consultation (48.15%), with local authorities making up less than 20%, with 37 responses.
Children’s rights charity Article 39 recently lost its judicial review into the regulations, having argued that it was unlawful for the government to implement the easements without a consultation. The charity asked for permission to appeal the decision, which was granted.
Some of our readers may have noticed that our posting has been a little less frequent than usual, so we’re just checking in to say please don’t worry, we’re still here.
The Summer has been extremely busy, both in terms of our work and the adjustments we’ve had to make during lockdown. During this time, as you know, we posted regularly as there were a lot of important developments to cover, but we’re now going to take a very short break.
All this means is that our site may not be updated as frequently over the next seven days, but we are still here to help with queries, comments and pro bono family law support.
Wishing everyone a restful Summer, and we’ll see you as we hit the ground running in September.