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Family Justice Board publishes priorities

Priorities announced for family justice system

22 December 2020
Family Justice Board publishes priorities

The Family Justice Board (FJB) has published a number of documents setting out key priorities for the family justice system. These include a statement that highlights actions they will be taking in response to the current pressures in the system, as well as longer-term reform. The FJB acknowledged that increasing numbers of children were experiencing delays regarding court proceedings that would be making major decisions about their lives, and the negative impact this had on those children was noted. It was stated that there were already considerable delays in the system pre-Covid, but that the pandemic had exacerbated the problems profoundly. The statement listed the additional resources that have been committed to resolve these pressures, including additional HMCTS staff, funding for Cafcass and increasing judicial capacity through recruitment. However, the FJB acknowledged additional actions must be taken.

In private family law, the immediate focus will be to reduce the backlog, prioritising the most urgent cases, through more collaborative case management at the gatekeeping stage and more flexible approaches in dealing with child arrangement applications. The longer-term priority was announced as the development of a programme of pilot projects to test a revised Child Arrangements Programme, which would deliver improved problem-solving outside of court, with a new case management approach for those cases that require court.

In public family law, the immediate focus will again be to identify and prioritise those most severely impacted by delays, ensuring that cases with serious child safeguarding risks are taken to court and permanent decisions are progressed through collective action. The longer-term priority will be to renew existing good practice, especially in relation to pre-proceedings work, ensuring those who need support and safeguarding receive it at the right time.

The Co-Chairs of the Family Justice Board have also published an open letter to thank all those involved in the system for their work during the Covid-19 pandemic. It can be read here or here (Welsh).

Reports from the private and public working groups were also published.

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