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Top five wishes for family justice system

Representatives of children and young people in England and Wales have spoken out about their experiences of the family justice system, and given suggestions on how the system can ensure its operations are as child-centred as possible.

The suggestions for improvement were expressed in the top five wishes for the family justice system in 2013, released by the Family Justice System Young People’s Board.

Young People’s Board

The Board is made up of 32 children or young people who have been through the family court system, or who have an interest in children’s rights and the family court. Typically, these are children who have either been through a parental divorce or separation, have lived in care or have been adopted.

The Board was established by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) in 2006, after Cafcass recognised the need to adopt a children’s rights focus more overtly in its work.

Focusing on the needs of the child

The Board helps Cafcass and the wider system to shape and design policies and initiatives and make sure they remain focused on children and young people.

Originally known as the Cafcass Young People’s Board, its success was recognised by the Family Justice Review, and it has now expanded to become the Family Justice System Young People’s Board. Its remit is to help ensure that the work of the Family Justice Board is as child-centred and child-inclusive as it can be.

Top five wishes

The Board’s top five wishes for the family justice system for 2013 are that:

  • Cases don’t drag on and are always focused on the needs of the children;
  • There is more support when a child just needs to speak to someone:
  • A way is found so that the court keeps children informed about their cases, especially when big decisions are going to be made about their lives;
  • Help is available when things get tough and children get stressed by all the arguing; and
  • A means is provided so that children can tell the people involved in their case about the good and bad bits and know they'd listen.

“Going through a situation like the family courts is undoubtedly tough for everybody involved, especially young people,” said Kitty Healy, a representative from the Board. “However, on our Board we believe that if case times are reduced and young people are given the support they need, we can make it easier for the thousands of children and young people who will go through the family courts in 2013.”

Moving forward

Anthony Douglas CBE, Chief Executive of Cafcass, welcomed the wishes and expressed the hope that they would be addressed over the next year.

“Family justice is about saving and improving lives – the lives of children,” he said. “The Board helps us to strengthen our focus and resolve to help more children.”


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