ISPCC welcomes children being front and centre of first National Family Justice Strategy

family justice

Today saw the publication of the first National Family Justice Strategy, an important initial step in the reform of the family justice system.

ISPCC was grateful to have the opportunity to submit to the public consultation in February 2021 and was delighted to be invited to be a member of the Voluntary Sector Advisory Group feeding into the strategy.

John Church, ISPCC Chief Executive said:

“We recognise the effort of the Department of Justice and fellow advisory group members in the drafting of this first National Strategy and are pleased to see a strong focus on children. All too often children’s best interests are not taken into account at a time when they are already struggling with their parents separating and a new way of family life.”

Children and young people need to be at the centre of the system and their voices need to be heard. ISPCC welcomes the action that will focus on reviewing the effectiveness of the voice of the child mechanisms and recommends that it be completed in a timely manner and that, crucially, children and young people will be at the core of such a review.

Research has suggested that, when not included in the decision-making process, children often express hurt, frustration and anxiety.

The importance and benefit of ascertaining the voice of the child in family law is that it gives the child a stake in the proceedings; it ensures the child is listened to and heard, and it better informs the Court to make practical child-centred suggestions, directions and orders.

It is essential for Family Justice services and supports to be accessible and ISPCC welcomes the focus on this as a key priority.

The use of mediation among family law disputants has been limited. ISPCC welcomes the proposed action to increase the awareness and promotion of alternative dispute resolutions to keep families out of the courts as much as possible and strongly supports the need for privacy in family law cases.

However, these mechanisms should only be used where it is safe and appropriate to do so.  

ISPCC looks forward to reviewing the strategy’s goals and actions in full. The publication of this strategy along with the Family Courts Bill is a hugely significant time for family justice in the State.

This is a complex area and there are many issues yet to be resolved but ISPCC is encouraged that this is a significant step towards meaningful reform. In order for this strategy to succeed, it is imperative that all relevant stakeholders work together and that the requisite resources are put in place.  

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