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Spotlight on Child Protection in Family Courts - Review Panel

Spotlight on Child Protection in Family Courts

In our Newsletter of 31st May 2019 we informed you of the Government's announcement to have a review of how children and parents are protected in family courts. The issue was brought to a head by women's domestic violence organisations on the Victoria Derbyshire Show on 15th May 2019 and an independent review was supported by 123 MPs. The Government rejected an independent review, but announced on 21st May 2019 that it would have a review led by a panel of 'experts'.  We contacted the man from the ministry...


FNF Write to the Minister - 'Expert' Panel Comprises 1 Man, 10 Women and NO Father's/Men's Representatives

On 23 May 2019 we wrote a letter introducing our charity to the Minister, Paul Maynard MP, and requested that we be included on the panel. The Minister replied on 5th June 2019. He thanked us for our letter and explained that the panel had already been decided, that he would forward our letter to them for consideration and suggested that we respond to their call for evidence.

On 21st June 2019 the Ministry of Justice announced details of the panel. It is to be made up of ten women and one man, High Court Judge, Mr Justice Stephen Cobb. Crucially, whilst the panel includes an acting Chief Executive of Women's Aid, not one organisation that has a focus on fathers or men has been invited. It is, therefore, difficult to imagine how people can have confidence a the panel that appears to only take into account the views of half of the population. Could this be a bit like asking Jeremy Corby's Labour party to choose the Conservative leader or vice versa? We have written to the Minster again on 26th June 2019, asking him to reconsider the make-up of the panel, given that fathers, mothers and children will all be affected by the issues being investigated. We explained that the panel must also be able to represent the views of victims of abuse irrespective of gender as well as drawing on the experience of those who have been the victims of false allegations. They need to ensure that their views are be highlighted and recommendations take into account the means by which their interests might be equitably safeguarded. Our position is that if the panel does not have such representation then the terms of reference for the public call for evidence will be deficient and any subsequent recommendations will risk doing more collateral damage to healthy child-parent relationships. Our letter was written with the support of men's domestic abuse charity, Mankind Initiative. We await a response.

Some women's rights reresentatives are not satisfied with the make-up of this panel and are calling for victims to also be represented on it. The London Victim's Commissioner, Claire Waxman, whom we met last week supports this. We do not feel strongly in favour of the presence of victims on the panel as their views will no doubt be sought via the call for evidence. However, if victims are to be invited onto the panel, we believe that they must similarly include both sexes and crucially, we believe that a 'non-resident' parent who has experienced false allegations in the context of family separation should be included.

As a small aside, we leanrt the make-up of the panel whilst at a conference on Male Psychology at University College London that we were participating in. In fact the information came through just as Jackie Doyle-Prime MP,  Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Mental Health, Inequalities and Suicide Prevention was speaking. When the Q&A started we were the first off the block, raising this issue of this fundamental unfairness. Understandably, the Minister could not answer the question directly - it's not her area of responsibility. The round of aplause from a lecture theatre full of academics and psychologists of both sexes would have left her clear how people were feeling about this latest slight.

Next Steps and what can everyone do?

We have been in touch with a number of MPs to support a review of the panel. Options include an Early Day Motion on this issue. We will let you know if that happens so that we can get you to ask you MP to support it. One MP will be asking a Written Question about this which the Minister will be obliged to provide an Written Answer to. The MP has also agreed to contact the Minister to suggest that he meets with us. Again, we'll let you know if any progress is made on any of these fronts. Meanwhile, it would be helpful if you could write to your MP anyway and share your concerns. Please feel free to share your correspondence with us at - we will not disclose any personal details you share with us to third parties without your permission. You can find details of your MP here.

If you live in Greater London then you may also wish to share your concerns with the London Victims Commissioner who seemed to require some convincing about the importance of false allegations to many people or even that these were often used as a means of obtaining Legal Aid. Irrespective of this, Claire Waxman is keen to hear from men who have been the victims of domestic abuse

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FNF HSSF Kite Mark

Families Need Fathers has been awarded the Help and Support for Separated Families Kite Mark which is a new UK government accreditation scheme for organisations offering help to separated families.

Families Need Fathers work with a range of family law professionals, including Family Law Panel.

FNF are pleased to announce a partnership with MyDaddy who have built this excellent app for the significant proportion of fathers who are now newly sharing parenting after separation.

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