A week in family law: SCRs, FGM, IVF and more

Family Law|Industry News | 10 Jun 2016 0

The family law news this week has been dominated by three-letter initialisms:

The current system of serious case reviews (‘SCRs’) is to be scrapped and replaced with a new way of investigating child deaths, the government has announced. The move follows the publication of the Wood report, which reviewed the role and functions of Local Safeguarding Children Boards and, within it, SCRs. The present system of SCRs will be replaced with a system of national and local reviews. The government will legislate to establish an independent National Panel which would be responsible for commissioning and publishing national reviews and investigate the most serious and complex cases, which would lead to national learning. The move has been welcomed by the President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services Dave Hill, who said that the current system of SCRs is too costly and time consuming, and that often by the time the review publishes local practice and sometimes policy has moved on significantly. He went on: “Timelier, local reviews that help partners gather and embed learning in local practice is most welcome”. Hopefully, the new system will ensure that lessons are quickly learned.

New data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre shows that more than 1,200 cases of female genital mutilation (‘FGM’) have been recorded in England over the past three months, and that at least two per cent of all new cases were girls under the age of 18. Responding to the findings, Janet Fyle, the Royal College of Midwives professional policy adviser, called on health workers to be “vigilant” when it comes to identifying and tackling FGM. She said: “These figures show that we need renewed and focused efforts to tackle FGM. This has to be backed by a national action plan so that all sectors and all professionals see FGM as their business, and protecting girls from such abuses becomes a normal part of their practice. Every one of these numbers is a girl or young woman who has been subjected to abuse.” Quite.

Information collected by the Children’s Commissioner for England indicates that over a quarter of children who were referred for specialist mental health treatment in 2015 received no help at all. In addition, a significant proportion of children with life-threatening mental health conditions were denied specialist support, including children who had attempted suicide or serious self-harm, and those with psychosis and anorexia nervosa. The Commissioner commented: “Children and young people consistently tell me that they need better mental health support but the information we have received paints a picture of provision that is patchy, difficult to access and unresponsive. Behind the stats are countless stories of children and young people in desperate circumstances not getting the vital support they need.” Let us hope that this worrying situation is properly addressed.

This week we had a couple more of the President’s judgments in the ‘fertility clinic errors’ sequence, which seems never ending. For those who have not been following, couples having IVF treatment have been the victims of administrative failures by the clinics carrying out the treatment, resulting in the fathers being unable to obtain declarations of parentage. Thankfully, the President is going through the cases putting things right, but it is still shocking that so many errors have been made. It has been suggested that perhaps the clinics may take a little more care if there were to be some serious financial penalty for their errors.

And finally, my favourite story this week again comes from the Orient, where couples in the Chinese capital Beijing have been told not to get married in ‘vests and slippers’. Apparently, such slovenly dress indicates that they are not taking the process of marriage registration sufficiently seriously. Quite what difference taking it seriously makes to the outcome, I’m not sure. Still, they do say that marriage is a solemn vow…

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.

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