Final report of the Voice of the Child Advisory Group
The Voice of the Child Advisory Group was established in November 2014 following the Government’s stated commitment to children having a greater voice before decisions are made about their future in July 2014.
The Advisory Group primarily focused on family mediation when considering how children and young people could be involved in dispute resolution, with the aim of ensuring that the voices of children and young people are heard in all private family law proceedings which impact on them. The Advisory Group was also tasked with promoting child inclusive practices.
The Advisory Group has made a number of recommendations however a couple are of particular interest:
- They suggest a presumption that all young people and children aged 10 and above should be offered the opportunity to attend mediation, or be involved in other dispute resolution process, if they wish. This should be a process, rather than attendance at a one off meeting.
- There should be high quality, age appropriate information available for children and young people experiencing parental separation, via leaflets and websites
- There should be a dedicated website, a ‘place to go’ for all children and young people at all stages of their parental separation journey, with information and online tools
The report concludes by suggesting that there should be a presumption in law that hearing the voice of the child is the starting point for all dispute resolution processes.
The full report can be found here.
It will be interesting to see how these recommendations are put into practice. In particular, it will be interesting to see how often children and young people do seek to be involved in a process that, in a number of cases, will be highly emotional, with the child caught in the middle of parents going through a difficult separation.