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Child-inclusive dispute resolution: time for change (£)

Date:21 JUL 2015
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Janet Walker OBE, Emeritus Professor of Family Policy, Institute of Health and Society, Newcastle University
Angela Lake-Carroll, Independent Consultant, Mediator and Trainer

In July 2014 the Minister for Justice and Civil Liberties made a commitment to give children and young people a greater voice in family proceedings in England and Wales. He appointed the Voice of the Child Dispute Advisory Group to consider the steps necessary to implement this commitment in out of court dispute resolution processes, including mediation. In March 2015 the Advisory Group put forward a package of 34 recommendations to support the development of child-inclusive practice. These include a non-legal presumption that all children aged ten and over should always be offered the chance to talk to the professionals involved in helping their parents reach agreement.

Child-inclusive practice requires radical culture change amongst dispute resolution practitioners, new practice standards and high-level competencies. Simply tweaking existing practice or extending direct consultation with children currently offered by some mediators will not achieve the policy objective. Adoption of a child’s rights perspective means supporting children who wish to have their voices heard and supporting their parents to respect and benefit from their children’s participation. High-quality, age-appropriate information must be available for children and young people and funding will be required to ensure that hearing the voice of the child becomes the norm.

The full version of this article appears in the June 2015 issue of Family Law.

Online subscribers can access the full version of the article here.

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