Specialist family judges should talk to children whose care cases they deal with, according to an all-party group of MPs.
In a report last week, the Child Protection All Party Parliamentary Group warned that government reforms to the family justice system set out in the Children and Families Bill do not go far enough at a time of increasing demand on the care system.
The report welcomes the government’s aims to reduce unnecessary delay and drift in the care system, but said that reforms need to be carefully scrutinised to ensure they have no unintended consequences. It cites a consultation with young people which detailed their frustration over not getting to speak to the ‘strangers’ who make crucial decisions about their lives.
The report recommends that only specialist family law judges sit in family courts and that those judges should routinely ask children whether they would like to meet them.
It also questions the proposed 26-week timetable for the completion of care cases, saying that some planned interventions take longer than 26 weeks and should not be curtailed by legislation.