WED 17/02/2010 - David Norgrove has been appointed as chair of the government's new review of the family justice system to examine how the current system can be reformed to better support children and parents.
Mr Norgrove, who is currently Chair of the Pensions Regulator and the Low Pay Commission, began his career at the Treasury where he started as an economist and eventually became private secretary to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher from 1985 to 1988. He joined Marks & Spencer in 1988, holding various senior positions before his retirement in 2004. He will chair a review panel comprising:
Mr Justice McFarlane, the Family Division Liaison Judge for the Midlands;
John Coughlan CBE, Director of Children's Services at Hampshire County Council;
Dame Gillian Pugh, Chair of the National Children's Bureau, and;
Keith Towler, the Children's Commissioner for Wales.
The remainder of the panel will be made up of three senior officials from the Ministry of Justice, the Department of Children, Schools and Families, and the Welsh Assembly Government. The panel will look at the best methods of avoiding confrontational court hearings, and resolving family disputes outside of the court system, together with management of the family justice system.
Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, said: "The government is concerned that the confrontational nature of the private law system can sometimes inflame parental conflict, leading to greater distress for children. That is why we are asking the panel to explore whether the legal system can deal with the issues more effectively, for example out of court in certain cases, and how it can provide more mediation to resolve conflict.
"We are improving the advice and information given to parents about mediation and providing this earlier so that they can reach an agreed separation arrangement without resorting to the courts. This will help parents to agree arrangements for contact and continue to parent cooperatively, which will ultimately lead to better support for children to get through this difficult time. In our Families and Relationships Green Paper we are also consulting on what more we can do to encourage the take up of family mediation, for example making information sessions on mediation compulsory, before a parent can take court action."
The review was announced as part of the cross-government Families and Relationships Green Paper, published by the Department for Children, Schools and Families in January. It will include calls for evidence, focus groups and formal consultation as part of its work, and will also be seeking the views of children.
The panel will be asked to make recommendations in two key areas: providing better information to promote fair settlements and agreements between family members; and whether improvements need to be made to the way in which the family justice system is managed.
The panel is expected to hold monthly meetings, beginning shortly. The final report of the review panel will be published next year.