People often ask us a host of questions about what we do, how we do it and most importantly why we do it, so we thought we would conduct an interview with ourselves, and our most frequently asked questions.
Well, it is Christmas, time for a little festive fun.
- Researching Reform – how did that all happen, then?
Well, I went though the family courts during my own divorce, with a small child and was constantly surprised by the way the process dealt with families. It made such an impression on me that I decided to blog about it, and then by accident found myself working on projects designed to help make the system more user-friendly.
2. Are you angry about your experience – is this project a vendetta of sorts?
No, not at all. I genuinely love working on law and policy reform; it stretches my mind and makes me feel like I’m tweaking for change, and not just for the sake of it.
3. So, you’re not trying to bring down the system single-handedly, then – because that’s a rumour going round, you know…
If I wanted to bring down the system I wouldn’t champion personal heroes who work inside it. I may be critical of poor practice, whether in law, social work or psychiatry, but I try to differentiate between practice and people. There’s a fine line between people inside the system who genuinely don’t care and those who have grown despondent because they don’t feel they can make a difference. I’m always on the look out for both – the former to ensure they don’t abuse their positions and the latter to try to cheer them on. And I am a lawyer by trade – I stand by my profession, despite its awful public image, often deserved, and the oath we take to do right, which I had to make when I got called to the Bar.
4. What kind of stuff do you find yourself doing, other than blogging?
I get to work on all sorts of amazing things, with all sorts of amazing people. My priority is the Pro Bono work; since LASPO, more and more families are being denied their basic right to representation and they’re very scared and upset by the whole process. I’ve also organised debates in the Commons and events in the Lords for family law organisations, worked as a Consultant for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Family Law and the Court of Protection and advised politicians and peers on family law and policy. At the moment, I write articles on family law for various organisations, advise charities and enterprises on areas of family law, do lots of legal research and work on my beloved Encyclopaedia on Family and The Law.
5. That sounds like a heavy workload. Is being meticulous important to you?
Yes, very. However, when things get hectic at work, I may not always have the time to make sure that every post on my blog is pitch perfect and I take the view that if anyone wants clarification on anything I’ve written, all they have to do is ask. That’s the beauty of the internet – it’s not static, everything can be explained or made clearer. And, of course, I’m human; I get tired too.
6. There’s another rumour going round that your project is the work of the devil – care to comment?
If by that you mean that it seeks to put the system out of business, then no, it is designed to do the exact opposite. The Encyclopaedia I’ve created for example, is designed to help parents get the information they need, in language they can digest easily, and to help practitioners find what they need too. It essentially aims to make the whole process smoother and faster, with one critical advantage – it will help to regain public trust, so much of which has been lost, in the system. Families want to believe in professionals who are dedicated and who care. People who collaborate with us, have those qualities in spades. It’s a win-win situation.
7. Phew, well, we’re relieved. But you must have some bug bears about the system?
Yes, I have lots. It’s a little outdated, it doesn’t ‘look after’ families and my biggest gripe is the system’s current failure to listen, truly listen, to the Voice of the Child. Listening is an art in itself, which most people lose when they get big. We’ve got so many voices going on inside our own heads that it’s hard to hear the voices of others. And little people’s voices are that much softer.
8. How do you feel about the time limits on care proceedings?
I think the government is looking at the system’s problems back to front – we shouldn’t be setting deadlines for tasks to be done: that’s a superficial solution to the problem of delay which will not address the root causes of the system’s lethargy. We should be focusing on quality of support, streamlining processes and using our common sense. There’s very little of the latter around inside the system, but it would make a huge difference if people were allowed to use it.
9. What’s up with the Children and Families Bill?
The Bill, to my mind, is awkward. There’s a dollop of good stuff, a dose of bad, and a whole chunk missing, which makes it incomplete and wobbly. I’d like to see less legislation and more of a focus on actual on the ground support, looking at each family’s needs and treating them like the unique units they are – with the dignity they deserve.
10. Can we end with a fun question – you’re very intense, and it’s Christmas, we need a laugh: What’s the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you at work?
If only there were just a few – I’m a walking catalogue of embarrassments, but I’ll embarrass someone high profile, on this occasion. I was organising a family law debate in the House of Commons and sent an email to a Minister who was, at the time, head of a large department, specialising in the area in which the debate was about. Within moments of sending the email, I received an email from the Minister, which was intended for their PA. The email explained to the PA that the debate’s topic was an area they knew nothing about and to make up an excuse to the effect that they had to be with their constituents on that evening. Realising their mistake, the PA wrote back with speed, citing the very reason I had been privy to, not moments before, and not a mention of the runaway email….. And that, weird virtual interviewer, is politics.
Thanks, Researching Reform, you’re one crazy gal, but we love ya. More tea anyone?