The Justice Committee has welcomed proposed changes to family justice in a report scrutinising the draft Children and Families Bill. The Committee does, however, maintain concerns about the clause on shared parenting.
The report welcomes in particular the Government’s commitment to cut delays in the care process. It also praises the efforts of several local authorities and Courts, which have been endeavouring to speed up care cases in order to benefit the children involved.
The Committee does raise concerns over the clause intended to encourage parental involvement. This is because any new presumption or legislative statement could detract from the established principle that the best interest of the child is paramount.
Sir Alan Beith MP, Chairman of the Justice Select Committee, said:
“Relationship breakdown and the care proceedings process are highly emotive areas. Throughout our inquiry we have kept at the front of our minds that the primary purpose of all interventions in family relationships must be to protect the safety and wellbeing of children.”
“The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Children and Families) at the Department for Education, Edward Timpson MP, made clear in his answers to our questions that the Government did not intend or expect that the proposed new wording would change the content of Court orders, but that it could encourage parents to reach agreement on shared parenting and would help to reduce the ‘sense that there is an in-built bias towards one parent or another’ in the system. We concluded that the absence of enforcement of Court orders is a bigger factor in the perception problem than the content of those orders.”