The Family Justice Review is an independent review of the family justice system which was commissioned by the Ministry of Justice. The Family Justice Review Interim Report proposed changes to the way family cases are handled by the Courts, as well as procedures before bringing the case to Court. The review states that there needs to be a Family Justice Service, which would bring the judiciary and the Service together. There are a number of key changes that have been proposed which will overhaul the entire system for family cases as it currently stands.
Young Legal Aid Lawyers welcomes many of the proposals however is concerned about the practicalities around a number of changes.
The interim review sets out the following proposals:
-A Family Justice System is created
-The Ministry of Justice should sponsor the Family Justice Service
-All budgets in relation to family matters including the legal aid budget to be controlled by the Family Justice Service
-Changes to costs within different public bodies to prevent money being wasted such local authority charges for public law applications
-Family Justice System being responsible for the provision of publicly funded mediation and contact provisions
-To have family only Judges who are specialists
-A single family court which will be the single point of entry for all cases which will then be allocated dependant on complexity
-To have dedicated family buildings that are family friendly
-Include children and young people more in decisions that will affect their future
The review sets out that the Family Justice Service would deal with a range of matters, including family legal aid, promotion and responsibility of publicly funded mediation, allocation of resources, training of family specific judges and management of the family court system. Changes would include, Government departments would not have to charge other Government departments for their services, such as changes to the fee Local Authorities pay to issue care proceedings.
It is proposed that the Family Justice Service to be led through a Family Justice Board and a Chief Executive. Judges should receive clearer job descriptions and training so that they can specialise in family cases. As well as being an integrated IT system.
The proposals also highlight that cases should always focus on the child’s best interest, and it feels that sometimes parents’ rights have been taking precedence of the child’s best interest.
YLAL responded to the Family Justice Review - please read the response below