John Hemming's Web Log John's Reference Website
Sunday, April 03, 2011
  Moving the deckchairs on the titanic
The Family Justice review has now reported. I am not surprised that it has basically come out with a "business as usual" report.

The review panel consisted substantially of people who run the service rather than people who have experience of how it does things. Hence they are likely to endorse much of the current processes.

The concept of bringing everything into a "Family Justice Service" is basically moving the deckchairs on the titanic.

Not allowing independent social worker assessments is a step backwards towards simply rubber stamping the views of the local authority and guardian ad litem. A better approach would have been to scrap the GAL and instead have an independent assessment. This would have reduced costs and increased independence.

Potentially there is an improvement in the way experts are handled, but I have little confidence in the system.

Contrary to press reports there are no proposed improvements for grandparents contact.

I would think actually the proposals would increase costs generally and, therefore, I would not think the government would respond to it positively.

Now is not the time for a massive re-organisation.

There is also nothing really about improving contact in private law cases.

Hence there is no real response to any of the external criticism, plus a bit of deterioration in the way in which it operates quality control.

Hence although I will look at it further when I get some time I expect to campaign against the proposals en masse.

They don't even try to produce a recommendation about transparency although the following comment is in the report:

"In our view, based on our limited consideration of the issue, the general principle should be that people – including the media – should be able to attend court hearings but not be allowed to do or say anything that might identify the parties in public."

That would, of course, be an improvement. What is needed is for the proceedings to be reportable anonymously. That is actually a big step forward. There should be a court application to identify parents or children, but otherwise reporting should be free. Experts, however, should be identified (which the report argues against).
 
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