Question It

Researching Reform

Welcome to another week.

Former President of the Family Division, James Munby has urged the government to ask the public if it would like to be able to Skype judges during hearings rather than attend a physical court.

The question comes as the country faces mass court closures, with many already unable to attend available court houses without having to travel vast distances. Munby highlighted this issue by giving an example of  a mother living in a rural area, who does not own a car, having to get to the court.

Our question this week then, is just this: do you think being able to virtually attend court hearings using Skype is a good idea?


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Interesting Things

Researching Reform

As social care, mental health and family justice continue to dominate the news, we thought we would add some interesting reports and announcements making the rounds this week:

Government Response to the First Joint Report of the Education and Health and Social Care Committees of Session 2017-19 on Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision

Published today, this Green Paper  looks at vulnerable children, mental health and the education workforce. The government’s response to the Committee’s report is scathing:

“We welcome the publication of the Government’s Green Paper. However, we
consider that it lacks any ambition and fails to consider how to prevent child and
adolescent mental ill health in the first place. The narrow scope does not take
several vulnerable groups into account, the proposals put more pressure on the
teaching workforce without sufficient resources, and the timetable for
implementation ignores hundreds of thousands of children over the…

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The DWP sneaked out a damning admission just before parliament closed for the summer – The Canary 26 July 2018 + archive




The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) released some damning information about benefit sanctions; conveniently just as parliament was closing for its summer holidays.

The DWP: sanctions and mental health

On Tuesday 24 July, minister of state at the DWP Alok Sharma responded to twoquestions from SNP MP Dr Philippa Whitford. She asked the same question twice:

whether [the] Department has made an assessment of the effect of benefit sanctions on the mental health of claimants.

But one question was specifically about people already living with mental health conditions.

To both questions, Sharma said:

No assessment has been made on the impact of benefit sanctions on the mental health of claimants.

This is a damning admission. Not least because numerous independent studies have linked the sanctions regime to increases in mental distress among claimants.


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Government Ombudsman Cannot Investigate Matters Raised In Family Courts.

Researching Reform

Children and education complaint decisions by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) have revealed that the law prevents the independent body from investigating matters which have been raised inside the family courts.

Child protection reports, family assessments for court proceedings and adoption orders are just some examples of documents which the Ombudsman is unable to review as a result of the legislation. 

This exemption appears to be little known, as the LGSCO’s weekly publication offering details about the decisions it has made, shows an ongoing spate of cases requesting that the reviewing body intervene in alleged family law malpractice and misconduct.

The LGSCO’s most recent update features a significant number of cases where parents have asked it to look into social worker misconduct, report production, faults within the adoption order process and duty of care breaches towards children going through the courts.

There is also a complaint about…

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BREAKING: Supreme Court Rules Parents Must Be Informed About Their Rights Under Section 20 Agreements

Researching Reform


supreme court

A judgment in the Supreme Court handed down this morning confirms that councils must fully inform parents of their rights in relation to section 20 arrangements. The Court suggested that a failure to do so could amount to a breach under article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which provides a right to respect for private and family life.

S.20 agreements enable local authorities to accommodate children in need, where parents cannot look after their children or where children seek alternative housing, for short periods of time.

The Supreme Court judgment in Williams and another v London Borough of Hackney, overturns current child protection practice which allows social workers to use S.20s to remove children, without giving parents substantive information about the arrangements.

The Supreme Court also reaffirmed that the Children Act 1989 did not contain any clauses requiring councils to get informed consent from parents, however Lady Hale…

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Government Refuses To Offer Details Of Ministers Invested In Fostering And Adoption Agencies

Researching Reform

Information requested by Researching Reform in June, on government ministers with financial interests in fostering and adoption agencies, has been refused by the Ministry of Justice and The Department For Work and Pensions (DWP).

The Ministry of Justice’s replies to two of our Freedom Of Information requests relating to the above query, cited costs as the underlying factor for not being able to provide the information, but did offer the suggestion of narrowing down the request in order to access these details.

The DWP’s response is more controversial. The department’s approach was to classify the data requested as personal information, which under current legislation is protected and so not required to be shared, unless it falls into one or more of the following categories:

  1. Consent from the individual/s concerned
  2. Compliance with a court order;
  3. The prevention of the duplication of payments from public
    funds, or;
  4. Where there is a…

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Children And Families Minister Defends Current Forced Adoption Practices In Bizarre Speech

Researching Reform

In a confused speech delivered during a debate on forced adoption in the House of Commons yesterday, Parliamentary Under Secretary, Nadhim Zahawi defended the ongoing practice whilst also labelling the policy, “appalling”.

Zahawi’s ministerial appointment raised eyebrows, after he was found to have attended the now abolished President’s Club Dinner several times, and allegations around him supplying oil to Islamic State were revealed.

The motion for the debate called on the government to offer a public apology to single mothers in the 1950s and 1960s in the UK, who were coerced into giving up their children for adoption, at a time when government viewed single parenthood as a threat to the social fabric of the country. Zahawi sidestepped this request, failing to address it during the debate.

Instead, the Parliamentary Under Secretary for Children and Families, who Researching Reform is aware reads this blog, tried to shoehorn some ill…

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