Children and Families Act 2014: A failure of implementation

Back to news

The House of Lords Select Committee on the Children and Families Act 2014 has published its report today.

Resolution submitted evidence to the inquiry earlier this year, which can be read here.

There is much to note in the report including the two recommendations made below:

  • “We recommend that the Government produce and maintain a website which provides impartial advice for separating couples, helping them to understand the family justice system and what the courts can resolve, as well as what they cannot. We urge the Government to reconsider its proposals to make mediation effectively obligatory. Instead, we recommend that the MIAMs and mediation voucher schemes be replaced by a universal voucher scheme for a general advice appointment, at which point individuals can be signposted to alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, including mediation. We recommend that the Government urgently evaluate the impact of the removal of legal aid for most private family law cases, considering where reinstating legal aid could help improve the efficiency and quality of the family justice system.
  • “We recommend that, in order to formalise the voice of the child in proceedings, initial hearings should address the issue of how the voice of the child will be heard during the case. We also recommend that the Family Justice Council reviews the guidance setting out the approach taken to judges meeting with children. In so far as there may be a basis for a change of approach, the Committee further recommends that the Family Justice Council and the Judicial College give thought to the training needs of judges in this area and the sharing of best practice.”

Commenting on the publication of the report, Chair of the Committee Baroness Tyler of Enfield said: “The Children and Families Act 2014 was passed with the good intentions of giving greater protection to vulnerable children, better support for children whose parents are separating, a new system to help children with special educational needs and disabilities, and help for parents to balance work and family life.

“Regrettably, our inquiry has shown that this could have been the case, had any real focus been on implementing and monitoring the impact of the Act, without the added incessant churn within the Government. Instead, it was a missed opportunity and has ultimately failed in meaningfully improving the lives of children and young people.

“It was not until our inquiry was established that the Government gave any thought to a comprehensive post-legislative review of the whole Act, eight years after it received Royal Assent. Eight years is a long time in the crucial early years of these children.

“Throughout our inquiry, we have sought to hear directly from children, young people and their families and we are grateful for their time and insight, as they shared with us the challenges they face and how they feel let down by the very systems designed to support them.

“The welfare of children and young people should be the Government’s paramount concern when developing policies in this area. We urge them not to allow another eight years to pass before they make the improvements which are so demonstrably necessary.”