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UK lawyers to help give children a voice during family separation

Date:16 JUN 2015
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Senior Editor
Family lawyers and mediators across the country are joining forces with UK charity Kids in the Middle (KITM) to offer valuable support to children experiencing a family break-up.

Featuring a new and expanded website and an extensive national publicity drive, the initiative, in partnership with UK family lawyers and mediators, is designed to create a much expanded and more effective response to the needs and concerns of children caught up in family breakdown.

Duncan Fisher, who is directing the Kids in the Middle campaign, says:

'Support for children and young people in separating families is persistently overlooked in favour of support for parents. The gap between the rhetoric about the importance of children and young people and the reality of their marginalisation is unacceptably wide and our charity has teamed up with a group of leading family lawyers and mediators to redress the balance.'
There are 100,000 children involved in divorce every year in the UK and the majority of children experiencing family separation say they don’t get listened to.

The recent Government-commissioned Voice of the Child report states that ‘while there has been considerable focus in recent years on the provision of better information and support services for separating parents there has been little parallel investment in information and support for children and young people.’ The report adds that it is ‘particularly important’ that an ‘authoritative’ website should be available for children and young people in separating families and details a wide range of issues to be covered.

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Family lawyers and mediators are mobilising in response to the report’s recommendations, to provide more information, support and guidance through
KITM’s new one-stop-shop website, where young people will be able to hear from others who have been through the experience. The initiative is funded entirely by the family lawyers and mediators, with the UK’s largest family law practice, Irwin Mitchell, spearheading the launch as key sponsor.

A social media campaign will call on young people to tell their stories and give advice to their peers, and on-line counselling will be delivered in partnership with Relate.

Martin Loxley, Head of Family Law at Irwin Mitchell, says:

'We encourage parents to consider the best interests of children throughout the entire separation and divorce process. Being able to refer parents and children to the Kids in The Middle website and the support network the charity offers young people is an incredibly valuable service.'
KITM already has more than 30 family lawyers and mediators committed as members and believes by encouraging many more lawyers and mediators to join them, it will help bridge the gap and offer children in the UK better information and a louder voice.

Ruth Sutherland, CEO of Relate, the leading relationships charity, says:

'It is hugely important to recognise that separation is not just about adults - it affects the whole family, particularly children and young people. Ongoing conflict can have a profound impact on the youngest members of the family. Empowering children and young people to have their voice heard during family separation increases the chances of reaching and maintaining agreements around things like living arrangements and access. This in turn will help the next generation to grow into happier young adults with bright futures ahead.'
Zelda West-Meads, Agony Aunt with the Mail on Sunday – You magazine and professional counsellor, says:

'‘Helping children and young people realise they are not alone can make a huge difference at this highly emotional and turbulent time in their lives. Providing information and support is invaluable. It can be particularly helpful to talk to other young people going through similar experiences, because this can give them insight into their own problems and feelings and help them feel more in control.'