On 12 July 2021, the President of the Family Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane, issued his latest 'View from the President's Chambers'. The President confirmed that, for now, the flexible use of remote, hybrid or fully attended hearings as the circumstances of each case may require will continue. Further guidance will not be issued by the President on 19 July 2021. The family justice system is currently in the process of consulting, gathering data, discussing and taking stock. If guidance is to be given, it is anticipated that it will be given on one occasion and in one document that is applicable across the board in the Civil, Family and Court of Protection jurisdictions. Any guidance that is issued will not take the form of directive, mandatory instructions determining that certain cases must, or must not, be heard remotely. The approach will continue to be to trust the judgement of the judge or magistrate in charge of each case to use their discretion appropriately when making case management decisions.
In addition, the President sets out the following:
- Cafcass: a combination of a higher level than normal of adjourned cases since March 2020, and the continued rise in private law applications, has led to a position where the capacity of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) in England to take on and allocate individual cases to specific workers has reached the upper limit of what is considered to be tenable and safe, the President will publish a list of suggested ways of working in private law cases in July 2021 but in the meantime the decision to order a section 7 report, direct an addendum or require a Cafcass officer to attend a court hearing will be the subject of increased scrutiny
- Transparency: the President's conclusions are due to be published at or soon after the end of July 2021
- Public Law Working Group: the proposals are due to be implemented by the end of July 2021
- Family Public Law system: HMCTS has continued to develop the digital system which will provide a paperless platform on which the procedural stages of all public children applications are, in future, to be conducted. The Family Public Law System has been established at each Designated Family Judge centre in England and Wales, although there remain issues to resolve, with a view to all courts moving to the use of the Family Public Law System by December 2021
- Experts: the Family Justice Council has established a permanent sub-committee and eight regional groups with legal and expert co-chairs to begin the work of implementing the recommendations of the working group
- Well-being: the President continues to be concerned about the well-being of those working in the family justice and is considering the volume of email traffic and the time taken to draft consent orders