Inquiry launched into government family justice reforms

Inquiry chair says there are 'key questions' to be asked around the implementation of proposals from the Family Justice Review.

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Photo: Rex Features

A parliamentary inquiry has been launched into the government’s family justice reforms, proposed in the Children and Families Bill.

Launched by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Child Protection, the inquiry is calling for evidence on how the family justice system could be improved and is seeking views on care plans, the six-month limit on care cases and shared parenting legislation.

The government’s proposed changes – first recommended by the family justice review and, in May, announced in the Queen’s speech – have caused controversy among social workers and children’s guardians.

The British Association of Social Workers and guardians body Nagalro branded the six-month deadline “nonsensical” and warned it could risk miscarriages of justice.

Meg Munn MP, chair of the APPG, said: “There are key questions to be asked around the implementation of the proposals from the Family Justice Review.

“This inquiry intends to examine those questions and come up with constructive recommendations in time for the Bill to be scrutinised in Parliament.”

Focus of inquiry

On the six-month time limit, the inquiry will look at: the circumstances when cases should last longer than six months; how courts can decide which cases should fall outside the proposed time limit and how the legislation can be framed to ensure judgments are made with the best interests of children.

On care plans: how to ensure plans are of sufficient quality; how to ensure sufficient scrutiny of plans, if the court’s scrutiny is to be rolled back and how existing structures in the courts and local authority can be used to support the development of the plan and ensure the best experience for the child.

The inquiry will also examine how courts can ensure that decisions are always taken in the best interests of the child, as well as when shared parenting following a family separation is safe and in the child’s best interests.

The APPG will hold seminars in the autumn on these three key areas and asks that written evidence from organisations and individuals is sent to: shelley.hopkinson@parliament.uk

The deadline for submissions on care plans is August 31 2012, ahead of a roundtable discussion on September 5.

Further evidence should be submitted by September 21.

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