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Settlement conferences are already taking place in a number of DFJ areas. The pilots are supported by an ‘action research’ evaluation – led by social researchers in the Ministry of Justice – which has already identified important areas of learning for the pilot. Some of this feedback highlighted that family judges would find training and further guidance helpful before participating in the pilot in their area. This feedback has informed the drafting of a package of training and guidance materials.
This pilot has my full support. I am keen that we understand whether, and how, this approach can lead to appropriate outcomes for children and families in a less adversarial context. I would like to encourage judges to consider adopting the pilot in their areas using these training materials.
The evaluation will continue during the pilot to seek the views and experiences of both judges as well as professional and lay parties. This will ensure lessons learnt and areas of good practice are shared and the settlement conference model is continually reviewed and improved.