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President of the Family Division welcomes Nuffield report into effectiveness of remote hearings during COVID-19

Date:6 MAY 2020
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The President of the Family Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane, has welcomed research published by the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory (NFJO) in the effectiveness of remote hearings used in the family justice system since the COVID-19 crisis began.

Sir Andrew asked the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory to carry out the study three weeks ago to examine views after some hearings during the crisis have moved to be held online rather than face to face. The NFJO is an independent organisation which is committed to improving life for children and families by putting data and evidence at the heart of the family justice system.

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Submissions were gathered from families with children and all professionals working in the family justice system, including judges, barristers, solicitors, Cafcass workers, court staff and social workers.  Input was gathered via virtual meetings and events and includes responses from over 1,000 participants.

This important piece of independent research is vital after what has been, over only seven weeks, a very fast-moving programme of change for family justice.  The President recognises that the report highlights a balance of viewpoints. There are some clear advantages to digital/remote working that can be built upon but also some worrying issues highlighted that can be addressed.  The President recognises that the current crisis has placed additional stresses on the Family Justice System and wants to ensure that these experiences are well understood. The research highlights the extraordinary work of Family Judges and the wider Family Justice community in these challenging times.