Chair’s Welcome Address, Resolution National Conference 2024

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Grant Cameron, Chair of Resolution’s National Committee, addressed delegates at National Conference

Manchester, 17 May 2024


Thank you, Colin, for that introduction, and I’d like to add my thanks to Jo for chairing the conference and giving us all such a warm Mancunian welcome.

It’s incredible to think that this time last year I was standing in front of you all in Brighton giving my very first address on my very first day as Chair of Resolution.

One year on, I remain as proud to be your Chair as I was then. And what a year it has been. We celebrated 40 years of Resolution. We launched our Vision for Family Justice. We held our first Resolution Awards ceremony.

But moreover, it provided us with an ideal opportunity to reflect upon just how far we’ve come as a profession – and as an organisation – as well as looking ahead and thinking about what the next forty years will look like.

For me personally, the last year has been – in a very good way – a real eye-opener. One which has given me a varied experience, meeting and working with fellow members around the country, as well as those outside Resolution involved in the delivery of family justice.

It’s also been a revelation for my family who’ve lived and breathed this year with me, as well as my team at Trethowans, and I’d like to thank all of them for their ongoing support.

One thing that has surprised me the most in my first year of being your Chair, is just how much you see at Resolution, that you’d otherwise have no experience of.

It has been a real honour to appear as Chair at events such as the Family Practice Conference, our now annual YRes Conference, and our Alumni event to celebrate our 40th anniversary. That event alone was a fantastic experience, to hear from our past Chairs – and just realising how much I need to do in my second year to get anywhere near their level!

It’s great to work with Colin and the whole staff team to help shape the agenda and set the direction of travel for the organisation in the family justice world, with its constant demands and challenges.

It is hugely important to me to highlight that the staff team often go unnoticed, but they really are key to keeping the wheels turning of this multi-faceted membership body.

For such a small team, they work incredibly hard, day in day out, to make events like this a reality.

It is a true partnership with our members and committees, alongside the staff, who deliver the essential training we offer; produce industry leading guides and handbooks; and provide unrivalled networking opportunities for us all to meet and share best practice.

You’ve heard from Colin today already, who leads this team, alongside fellow Directors Claire Easterman and Matt Bryant.

There’s Rachel Rogers, whose exemplary work on producing our Vision for Family Justice really was a monumental effort.

To Sophina and her team; Louisa, Kim, Joe and Mohammed, thank you all for putting on this wonderful sell out conference and all the other great training and events throughout the year.

Special thanks too, to the membership team, especially Mat, Leah, Sara, Reena and Lirika; who keep on top of the many, many phone calls and enquiries we receive – from members and the public.

To Esther in publications, who’s revamped and redesigned the Review.

And to Gemma, Sasha, and Ali, whose work across a number of different projects are making a massive difference to our offering to members.

Also, to Sarah Baba, supported by Ken, for their amazing efforts to launch our inaugural awards ceremony and make that such a wonderful evening.

And I couldn’t let these mentions go by without giving my special thanks to Anthony who provides so much support with speeches like this one. My script says that if you like it, it’s down to him – if you don’t, well, blame the speaker.

This is just a few examples of the many, many things our team does to support your work.

As your Chair, it feels like sometimes we – as members – take their hard work for granted, and I’d like you to join with me to take this time to truly recognise the unsung heroes of Resolution, our wonderful staff team.

Thanks to their work, we are well placed to tackle the challenges which lie ahead.

One such challenge is the ever-changing political environment. With a General Election happening at some point between now and January, this is particularly pronounced this year. But rest assured, no matter the result of the next General Election, Resolution will continue to be the mouthpiece of the family justice profession. We’ll continue to speak up for you and the people you support; and we’ll continue to bring your insight and experience to the door of policymakers and officials, as we help shape the future of family justice together.

It was fitting that our 40th anniversary culminated in the launch of our Vision for Family Justice. Family Justice does not stand still. It is vital that the family justice system meets the need of today’s modern families. We recognise that all families are different, and a one size fits all approach does not support families and children. The law should start to recognise different types of family formation and ensure no family is left behind and crucially  to ensure that children’s voices are heard as evidenced by the positive feedback from the Pathfinder Courts and the work funded through the Nuffield Foundation.

Our Vision is just the start for our future campaigning activity, as we work to raise awareness of the changes that you, our members, believe need to happen to improve the lives of the people you are working with on a daily basis.

We know that government, in whatever form it comes later this year, is listening to us, but we need to ensure our voice remains loud and strong. Do not underestimate the role Resolution plays in shaping the thinking of government and opposition on family justice.

Just in last 12 months we have been approached to provide evidence to Select Committees, meet with Ministers, MPs and Peers to provide our insight. Labour has committed to changing the law to protect cohabitants, the main ask of our Vision; and there also is cross party support with this call for reform.

The Government has recently committed to introduce a pilot scheme to provide separating parents with early legal advice, addressing, at least in part, another central thread of our campaigning.

We know from our meetings in Westminster and Whitehall just how valued YOUR voice is. You are our most powerful advocates for change. You are at the front line. You are supporting people going through one of the most difficult life events anyone can face. You know what works – and our role is to channel that into government’s thinking.

We’re lucky to work with a number of organisations such as FLBA, the Law Society, LAPG, FMC, ALC and many others, who – whether through campaigning work or by providing practical support to professionals – work with us, with a genuine spirit for co-operation and collaboration. Our collective voice is louder than ever.

Today, and because of your support, we are in a great position to lobby for the changes you want to see. Spearheaded by Jo Edwards, the Family Law Reform Group has helped cement Resolution’s place as the leading authority on family justice policy.

Let’s not forget that it was Resolution that persuaded the current government to introduce no fault divorce – reform was achieved before and can be done again. Both government and opposition are listening; we will make sure they continue to listen; and we will continue to push for reform in the areas that mean the most to you.

None of what we do would be possible without the support of our amazing National Committee members. I’d like to take this time to thank each and every one of them for their continued work to ensure the ship is steered in the right direction.

In particular, I’d like to thank those who won’t be continuing on NC, Sharon Kay and Caroline Elliott, for all of their hard work and commitment in their terms of service on National Committee.

They have both been keen champions of Resolution’s work to develop our regional networks, with Caroline also chairing the Drafting Committee, and more recently serving as the NC representative on the Executive Committee. And Sharon, who sits on our Membership Committee, has been a fierce advocate for both broadening our membership offer and ensuring our regional groups are fully supported.

On a personal note, I will very much miss their contributions to and company on NC. I know we won’t have seen the last of Caroline and Sharon – in a very good way – and I look forward to continuing to work with them in their respective committees.

And I’d also like to congratulate Claire Blakemore, Farhana Shahzady and Elspeth Thomson on their re-election to National Committee. And a very warm welcome to Ian Walker and Lucy Loizou, who join us on the committee for the next three years.

Thank you to everyone who put themselves forward for election to National Committee, it is not an easy thing to do, and harder still to be elected, so even if you weren’t successful this time, please do consider standing again in the future.

It would be remiss of me to not take this opportunity to thank my vice chair – the real brains of this double act – Melanie Bataillard-Samuel.

In twelve months’, time, Melanie will be stood in front of you to deliver her inaugural address as Chair of Resolution.  I know, Melanie, it may seem daunting. But you’ve no need to be concerned.

And, Conference, believe me when I say, that you will be left in the most capable hands to take this great organisation forward. We  will have somebody at the helm, who is  passionate about their work and who lives and breathes Resolution.

Melanie provides fantastic support and encouragement to all members and the committees she is on. She wholeheartedly believes in this organisation and the work that we do.

We agree on many things, but perhaps the strongest point of agreement between Melanie and I is that Resolution’s greatest strength is in the diversity of our membership. As a profession we are truly stronger together. And there’s no greater example of collaboration than that shown by our Regions and Committees.

These groups are fundamental to the success of Resolution. They are the heart and soul of everything we do. The crucial work of our volunteers is not lost on me, nor is it lost on your National Committee.

We are fortunate to have, at any one time, over a thousand members who give up their time and provide expertise that guides our work, delivers our training, shapes our conferences, influences politicians, and creates resources for you. Because of these efforts, by both our members and our staff team, I know Resolution has a very positive, powerful and purposeful future ahead.

Talking of the future. When I first joined National Committee, I was asked what my priorities were for the organisation. For me, highlighting the importance of the next generation of family justice professionals is right up there.

It’s great to see so many younger faces out there today. Jo [Radcliff], you spoke with such pride when relaunching YRes ten very short years ago, right here at the Midland. I am always amazed by the appetite of our young professionals to come to events like this, to connect with peers and transform, not just the future of family justice – but the here and now.

We have an active and dedicated YRes committee, and I often wonder how different my career would have been if YRes was around when I started practising. Just one example; the conversation regarding wellbeing started with YRes members  and is now being given a far greater and much needed spotlight.

I must admit, I am quite jealous that there is now this terrific group of junior professionals so readily available to network with, to learn from and to grow up together throughout your careers. Never ever take that for granted.

You will be the guardians of the Code of Practice. And you will be responsible to ensure it remains at the heart of how Family Justice is practiced.

Our working lives have changed so much, yet Resolution’s ethos remains the same. We deal with family matters in a constructive way, putting the needs of the family first.

And that belief is as strong now as it was forty years ago, and we are constantly striving to improve the way disputes are resolved. At the centre of that is our Code of Practice.

The widespread adoption of the Code and its endorsement by the Courts has fundamentally changed the way family law is practised, with a positive effect on individuals, couples and their children. As the Code evolves and develops, so too does Resolution’s aims of pioneering new ways to help couples reach agreements; last year we celebrated a year of Resolution Together; we trained hundreds of practitioners to give them the skills to support families; and we’ve established a raft of courses to help make Resolution the one-stop-shop for all your training needs.

Our newly developed Statement of Ethical Principles and Practice strengthens the Code, supporting members to work to best practice standards and provide the basis on which innovative practice can be built, whatever the area.

It’s by keeping the Code front and centre that we’ll continue to transform the family justice landscape: Reducing conflict, supporting professionals, and helping our members help families find “A Better Way”.

You really do get out of Resolution what you put in. It’s part of the trade-off of volunteering.  You give us your time, and we’ll give you a pool of expertise that you can tap into and a sense of pride in shaping the future.

Or, in my case, an opportunity to lead from the top, to serve on National Committee, and to make friendships that will last a lifetime.

So, my message to all of you today is to get more involved with this great organisation. Join a committee. Help run and support local Resolution events. Write to your local candidates ahead of the next election.

The more active you are, the further your membership will go. So, join in – I did and now I have the privileged position of being able to stand in front of you today.

If our 40-year celebrations demonstrated anything its, we have a rich history peppered with achievements throughout and I am confident that we have a bright future ahead of us.

I am incredibly proud of this organisation. I’m proud of the role you all play in it. You should be too. I have said it before and I’ll say it again. Be proud of our past. And be part of our future.

Thank you all and have a great conference.