The Law Society has announced that it is supporting the proposals contained in Interim Report of the Family Justice Review to improve the family justice system.
In March the Family Justice Review panel, chaired by David Norgrove, published their interim report and recommended a range of reforms that if implemented would radically reshape the family justice system. The consultation on the review panel's recommendations closed today and its final report will be published in the autumn.
The proposals include incorporating Cafcass into a new service where it would work jointly with the courts service, legal aid and other partner agencies within a single service. The new Family Justice Service will be led by a National Family Justice Board, to draw the key functions of agencies together and see children and families all the way through the justice system. The aim is to simplify the system and increase efficiencies by pooling the resources of the different overlapping services.
Law Society President Linda Lee said, "reform on the scale required cannot be delivered without proper investment."
"These proposals are ambitious and they deserve resourcing accordingly: half-measures will not succeed, and the opportunity will be lost. It is better that reform is planned and implemented properly, than change introduced piecemeal and quickly. For reforms to have the intended impact, they need to be adequately funded. Substantial and sustainable investment will be required to create an effective Family Justice Service.
"While we do not agree with all the review proposals, we recognise that no proposed solution to systemic problems of this magnitude can be perfect. We therefore support and join with the review panel's drive for far-reaching change to family justice in England."
The Law Society says it does not agree with the proposals for charging fees, and is opposed to enforcing contact orders through the suspension of the payment of maintenance.
Although the family law solicitors' association, Resolution, said it also broadly welcomes the proposals, they are apprehensive about proposals to increase the use of alternative dispute resolution in family proceedings and are concerned whether all mediators have a sufficient knowledge of child protection risks to carry out entry-level screening.
David Allison, chair of Resolution said: "As the report seems to acknowledge, it will be important to ensure that mediation is not seen as a panacea for all couples and that other non-court options such as collaborative law are also promoted."