Westminster Legal Policy Forum

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

Morning, Thursday, 27th February 2020

The Caledonian Club 9 Halkin Street, Belgravia, London, SW1X 7DR


This conference examines the next steps for family justice in England and Wales, including:

  • Court modernisation;
  • Protecting vulnerable users;
  • Developing care proceedings; and
  • The use of data and evidence to improve outcomes.

The seminar is timed to take place as the Government considers responses to a number of key consultations on the family court structures, including:

  • MoJ’s final report on Assessing risk of harm to children and parents in private law children cases - focusing on safeguarding court users in private cases and identification of risk;
  • The continuing HMCTS court reform programme relating to divorce, adoption, public, and private law looking at improving information sharing between organisations, digitising evidence and developing further case management systems; and
  • Examination of options for reform more widely in family justice being conducted by working groups led by Justice Keehan and Justice Cobb on public and private law respectively, including proposed changes to non-court dispute resolution, the current child arrangements programme, and special guardianship orders.


There will be keynote contributions from:

  • Sir James Munby, Chair, Nuffield Family Justice Observatory and former President, Family Justice Division, High Court of England and Wales - discussing his work on Special Guardianship Orders as well as his time as President of the Family Division;
  • Neal Barcoe, Deputy Director, Family Justice Policy Division, Ministry of Justice - on the MoJ’s report on the risk of harm in private law cases, and the Government’s plans for policy more widely in Family Justice;
  • Isabel Syred, Service Manager, Divorce and Family Reforms, HMCTS and Emma Petty, Service Lead, Public Law and Adoption Reforms, HMCTS - who will be giving an update on the Service’s current court reform programme and the next stages of implementation;
  • Dr Mike Shaw, Co-Director, National Unit, Family Drug and Alcohol Court - on the FDAC’s work and the lessons that can be learned more widely from the problem-solving courts; and
  • A senior speaker confirmed from Citizens Advice.

Further confirmed speakers include: Adina Claire, Women’s Aid; Mor Dioum, Victoria Climbié Foundation; Usha Sood, Trent Chambers and senior speakers confirmed from National Family Mediation and Jessica Asato, SafeLives.

The agenda

  • Improving data and research evidence in family justice;
  • Problem-solving courts - addressing substance misuse, mental health problems and domestic abuse;
  • The impact of changes to private family law proceedings - protecting vulnerable users and meeting demand and expanding mediation;
  • Supporting victims and ensuring effective legal advice for litigants;
  • Reforming care proceedings in England and Wales - Special Guardianship Orders, improving standards nationwide and innovative approaches to care;
  • Implementing court modernisation; and
  • Next steps for policy.

Engagement with policy officials at this conference

Westminster Legal Policy Forum conferences typically attract strong interest from policymakers. This seminar will be an opportunity for stakeholders to engage with officials who have reserved places representing: the MoJ; Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service; the Judicial College; the Department for Education; the FCO; and the Welsh Government.

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

Sir James Munby

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

Dr Mike Shaw

Consultant, Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist, Tavistock Clinic London, Family Drug and Alcohol Court National Unit

Adam Lennon

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


Baroness Newlove

Deputy Speaker, House of Lords

Baroness Hamwee

Liberal Democrat spokesperson on Immigration


Jane Robey

Chief Executive Officer, National Family Mediation

Mor Dioum

Co-Founder and Director, Victoria Climbié Foundation

Ursula Lindenberg

Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Voices

Senior speaker confirmed from Citizens Advice

Alison Moore

Barrister, 1GC Family Law and Member, FLBA Vulnerable Witness Working Group

Adina Claire

Acting Co-Chief Executive, Women’s Aid

Jessica Asato

Head of Public Affairs and Policy, SafeLives

Usha Sood

Barrister and Head of Chambers, Trent Chambers

Natasha Watson

Head of Safeguarding Law and Litigation, Brighton & Hove City Council

Gina Perkins

Operations Manager, Witness Service, Citizens Advice

Alison Lamb

Chief Executive, RCJ Advice