This week began with the rather alarming news that relationship breakdown is apparently costing the UK a staggering £50 billion a year, according to the Relationship Alliance, a new group of politicians and charities. The alliance is proposing that a ‘national relationship strategy’ is created to tackle the problem. Now, I realise that anything that costs the taxpayer money is legitimate government business, but I am a little wary of government interference with the natural processes of relationship formation and breakdown. Surely, it is for government to respond to the ways of society, rather than try to influence them?
As I explained in this post the President of the Family Division Sir James Munby has been exercising his oratory skills again. This time talking to the Society of Editors he chose the appropriate topic of transparency. As I said in my post, there wasn’t really anything new in the speech, but no doubt Sir James’s initiative to open up the family courts went down well with his audience. Whether it will go down well with family justice professionals who are vilified in the media and whose lives are made a misery by the ‘secret justice’ brigade is another matter.
As I also mentioned in this post, the Private Law Working Group has published its report regarding the resolution of ‘private law’ disputes in and out of court. As I explained, the Group recommends a new ‘Child Arrangements Programme’ to replace the Private Law Programme, and has also drafted guidance on various related issues. All I can say is that I’m glad I’m no longer practising, as there seems no end to the plethora of new and/or amended guidance upon (it seems) every aspect of family law practice. Such, I suppose, is progress.
The biggest stories of the week, certainly in terms of making national headlines, both relate to child care.
Firstly, the serious case review into the death of Hamzah Khan has been published. Interestingly, Children and Families Minister Edward Timpson was not satisfied with the review and has written a letter to Professor Nick Frost, the independent chairman of the Bradford Safeguarding Children Board, listing ten ‘glaring absences’ from the review. These all relate to what the Minister calls ‘missed opportunities’ to protect the children in the house. Without wishing to pre-judge, it will be interesting to see how Professor Frost replies.
Secondly, and in a similar vein, the BBC reported yesterday that children’s services at Birmingham City Council could be taken over by the Department for Education before Christmas if standards do not improve. I confess that this is not a story that I have been following closely, but I do hope that it is not just an example of the government making an empty threat in order to respond to the clamour for ‘something to be done’. After all, taking over the services of a council the size of Birmingham is going to be a lot easier said than done, as the BBC correspondent points out.
And finally, Conservative MP David Davies has suggested that ‘feckless’ fathers should be put in chains and made to work to pay back the costs of the care of their children. Who said we didn’t get high quality debate in parliament anymore?
Have a good weekend.