Westminster Legal Policy Forum

Next steps for family justice in England and Wales - mediation, court reform and protecting vulnerable users

Morning, Thursday, 27th February 2020

Central London


The seminar is timed to coincide with a number of key consultations on the family court structures, including:

With concerns raised over the increasing number of litigants in persons and cases being brought to court, delegates will assess policy options to improve the use of Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings (MIAM). They will discuss options for reform to improve take up - such as an expectation that users attend meetings, developing new guidelines for proceedings, and enforcing quality standards for mediation meetings.

The potential development of a national non-court dispute resolution service that was suggested by Justice Cobb’s working group will also be discussed, including how - with Government assistance - practical issues with the proposed system could be resolved to reduce the overall number of cases going through the courts.

Those attending will consider special guardianship, supervision orders, and the 26 week statutory time scale. Delegates will discuss the impact of this on assessments and professionals in the sector, following the report by the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory on special guardianship that recommended strengthening supervision orders to ensure the number of children returning to court following further harm is reduced.

Attendees will assess draft recommendations for reform including more comprehensive assessments and support plans, and better training for practitioners. Discussion will also focus on reducing the variations between local authority practices - including the sharing of best practice and improving pre-proceedings data and knowledge of risk.

Further sessions will look at government funding of the Supporting Families programme, with a focus on:

  • Aims to create stability in the home for young people and prevent them being taken into care; and
  • How vulnerable children’s experience of the system can be improved, including through early assessments and intervention plans based around the child.

Further sessions will look at HMCTS plans for modernising the courts and tribunals service. Delegates will assess the current plans for family courts and the implications of reforms on the users of the system.

They will also discuss the progression of policies that are being implemented by HMCTS in order to improve the efficiency of the courts, looking at:

  • The ‘Shared Storage System’ allowing greater collaboration between local authorities and family courts;
  • Submission of ‘digital evidence’; and
  • The future for online divorce as the Bill fails to pass through Parliament.

Keynote Speaker

Adam Lennon

Deputy Director and Service Owner, Family, Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service

Keynote Speakers

Neal Barcoe

Deputy Director, Family Justice Policy, Ministry of Justice

Adam Lennon

Deputy Director and Service Owner, Family, Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service


Sir James Munby

Chair, Nuffield Family Justice Observatory and former President, Family Justice Division, High Court of England and Wales

Dr Mike Shaw

Co-Director, National Unit, Family Drug and Alcohol Court

Adina Claire

Acting Co-Chief Executive, Women’s Aid

Senior speaker confirmed from National Family Mediation

Neal Barcoe

Deputy Director, Family Justice Policy Division, Ministry of Justice

Usha Sood

Barrister and Head of Chambers, Trent Chambers