Children walking

Children’s role and influence on family justice system debated

The family justice system is currently going through major change and the role of children in the legal process forms the focus of a series of debates, lectures and workshops at the University of Exeter.

Baroness Scotland, the former Attorney General and family law specialist, is speaking on ‘Children in the Family Justice System’ at an evening reception funded by the SETsquared Partnership on 6 September. An international group of leading academics who research on family issues will be joined by a range of legal family practitioners, judges, policy makers, social workers, children’s charities as well as some children from local schools to debate this topical issue.

“SETsquared is delighted to sponsor this event” said Graham Harrison, Partnership Director, “This is an example of how we can support our Universities in creating real impact from their world class research.”

The lecture is one of a series of events organised by the ‘Network on Family, Regulation and Society’ which explores the implications of families becoming increasingly diverse and what changes mean for the regulation of family and personal relationships in law and policy from a socio-legal research perspective. One of the aims of the Network is to facilitate discussion on key issues surrounding family law, policy and justice between academics, practitioners, policy-makers and others working in the field. The Network is a collaborative initiative between leading socio-legal, social policy and psychology researchers working on families, law and policy based at the Universities of Exeter, Bath, Bristol and Cardiff. It hopes to ensure that future policies which affect families will be constructed from a basis of high quality research.

At a related event, the Network’s UK academic members are joined by leading academic partners form Australia, USA and Europe to form the Leverhulme International Network on New Families; New Governance. At a 2-day workshop taking place at Exeter on the 6-7 September, they explore whose voices (including those of children) are heard and unheard on family law and policy issues and compare the responses in legal and policy settings in different jurisdictions to changing family issues which test the dynamics between family and state.

Professor Anne Barlow said: “In the UK over the last 10 – 15 years there has been a new focus on children and the development of ‘children’s policy’ (rather than solely family policy). This has occurred alongside an increasing recognition that children are bearers of rights and entitlements in accordance with Article 12 of the UNCRC. In addition, children have been progressively seen being able to contribute to governance as part of a new trend towards including the voices of service users in policy and practice.

She added: ”However, despite the growing expectation of children’s consultation and participation in policy making and in the decisions that affect them, making this process meaningful, sustainable and effective has been challenging and children’s voices in many settings have remained unheard and/or unheeded.”

The workshop will be chaired by Caroline Davey Director of Policy, Advice and Communications for Gingerbread. Experts from the UK, Australia, America, Europe and Scandinavia will be presenting research papers to an invited audience of academics who will debate and discuss the common and different themes arising in the different jurisdictions around changing families and governance and how they relate to current and future research agendas.

Date: 6 September 2012