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What family lawyers were talking about this week…

1. The UK’s only forced marriage and honour-based abuse helpline has received almost double the number of monthly calls it had last year. The project, funded by the Ministry of Justice, is experiencing more calls than ever before and missed almost 140 calls in one month, both from people potentially at risk of being coerced into marriage or of abuse at the hands of their family or community, and from professionals trying to help victims. Almost 1,070 calls came into the helpline, run by the Karma Nirvana charity, this January, compared with just over 660 in January 2013. The charity claims that as a result it is missing double the number of calls it did last year.

2. The Government plans to enlist midwives, GPs and registrars to help couples stay together and reduce levels of family breakdown, according to The Daily Telegraph. Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, is apparently examining a series of new policies aimed at reducing the stigma surrounding counselling and relationship support services. Under the plans, which were presented to ministers earlier this month, midwives, GPs and registrars will be encouraged to talk to couples about their relationships. They will then direct couples to one of a series of accredited relationship support services to help bolster their relationships. Employers could also be encouraged to play a more active role in signposting relationship support services to their staff.

3. Nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) of UK children know another child who is suffering from neglect, according to a report published this week by children’s charity Action for Children. The charity says that despite neglect affecting more than 1.5 million (one in ten) children and with fears the numbers are rising, the Government does not have a strategy to deal with the problem. Action for Children is suggesting practical measures to be included in a strategy, including a web portal where people can report concerns about children and systems allowing accurate birth data to be collected.

4. An unmarried father has failed in his bid to overturn an order terminating his parental responsibility in respect of his son. In D (A Child) the father was appealing against an order made by Mr Justice Baker in the High Court last year. However, the Court of Appeal unanimously dismissed his appeal. Lord Justice Ryder did, however, make clear that nothing in the Court of Appeal judgment should be construed to suggest that it has become, or should become, easier to remove an unmarried father’s parental responsibility.

5. Widespread police failure in England and Wales to tackle domestic abuse. A report by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary has said that as a result, thousands of people are at risk of harm or even murder. The inspectorate condemned the police service for treating domestic abuse as “a poor relation” to other police activity – and concluded that only eight out of 43 forces responded well to domestic violence. HMIC found “alarming and unacceptable” weaknesses in some core policing activity, in particular the quality of initial investigation undertaken by responding officers when they are called to a scene. The report also identifies that officers may lack the necessary supervision, knowledge and skills effectively to tackle domestic abuse, and some have poor attitudes. HMIC has developed a set of recommendations for the police service, Home Office and College of Policing which aim to make a long-term difference to the way the service prioritises and responds to domestic abuse.

6. People aged 40 and over made up a larger proportion of the cohabiting population in 2011: 41%, up from 31% in 2001. This data was included in the latest release by the Office for National Statistics, drawing upon the 2011 Census.  The ONS suggests that possible reasons include the increasing number of divorced people and the social acceptability of cohabitation following divorce or instead of marriage. The new release analyses data on marital status (legal partnership status including marriage and civil partnership) for adults (aged 16 and over) usually resident in England and Wales, noting key changes since 2001. Other key facts emerging from the data were that the single (never married) category showed the greatest increase in proportion: from 30 per cent (12.5 million) in 2001 to 35 per cent (15.7 million) in 2011 in England and Wales, and that in 2011, 12 per cent (5.3 million) of adults living in households in England and Wales were living as part of a cohabiting couple, an increase from 9.8 per cent (4.0 million) in 2001.

Whatever your living arrangements, have a good weekend.

John Bolch often wonders how he ever became a family lawyer. He no longer practises, but has instead earned a reputation as one of the UK's best-known family law bloggers, with his content now supporting our divorce lawyers.

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