Nagalro submission to APPG on proposed family court changes

Nagalro has submitted evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Child Protection about how children will be affected by the government's proposed reforms of the family courts in relation to three areas:

  • the plan to reduce court scrutiny of children's care plans;
  • the impact of the proposal to limit care proceedings cases to six months, and
  • how to ensure that decisions taken are in the best interests of children.

In relation to local authority care plans Nagalro's response says:  'reducing the role of the court in exercising independent scrutiny of the state’s exercise of its powers towards children is extremely worrying at a time when there are reductions in quality of other services for children. The cumulative effect of the reduction in the court’s role [] likely to lead to increasingly arbitrary and poorly thought-out decision-making for children.'

Reductions in the service provided by Cafcass, LSC,  expert ISW witnesses and IROs are diminishing children's access to those who can provide independent objective scrutiny of their circumstances i.e. the court, the children’s guardian and solicitor, and the IRO. These need to be not only in place but robust enough to scrutinise what is happening for the child, to challenge poor practice effectively and to keep children safe.  Cafcass, for example, may now allocate every case but practitioners carry such heavy workloads that in reality they simply cannot provide the quality and depth of work required to protect children’s interests.

In private law Nagalro welcomes and supports the Government’s commitment to encouraging both parents to play a part in the child’s life following separation. In its response Nagalro sets out why it does not believe that this is best achieved by any of the four legislative options proposed by the government. These, in Nagalro's view, do not offer any additional benefit for the child beyond the existing principle that the child's welfare is paramount. Change needs to be driven by children’s welfare rather than parents rights, and it is important that any change is based on evidence.

Nagalro notes that the opportunities for children's voices to be heard in private law cases are very limited, and that courts need a procedure that identifies potential conflict of interests between parents and their children through the provision of some independent objective evidence. It wants to see a greater range of provisions designed to support children and their parents who are separating.

Download Nagalro's full APPG evidence here.