To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, pursuant to the Answer of 6 March 2023 to Question 152246 on Family Courts: Standards, what steps his Department is taking to reduce those waiting times.
Reducing the waiting times in the family courts remains a priority for this Department.
To work through the outstanding caseload, we are maximising judicial sitting days. We are recruiting around 1,000 judges and tribunal members in 2023/24 to help hear more cases and reduce family court waiting times.
In March 2021 the Government launched the Mediation Voucher Scheme. As of April 2023, the scheme has helped over 17,000 families to access mediation and resolve their issues away from the family court.
In March of this year, the Government published a consultation on supporting families to reach agreements earlier and more amicably, where appropriate to do so. Key proposals include families completing a co-parenting programme and attempting to mediate before they make an application to court. These proposals will help more parents resolve their issues earlier, allowing the resources of the family courts to remain focused on the families and children who are most in need of the court’s involvement.
The Family Justice Board, which brings together leaders from across the family justice system and is co-chaired by MoJ and DfE ministers, has introduced a strategic plan to deliver on their priorities of minimising delays in the family courts. We are working on a package of measures to reduce demand and increase efficiencies in private law cases, and are supporting public law projects to tackle the delays.
We are also working to support the President of the Family Division following the relaunch of the Public Law Outline, to improve timeliness of public law cases and return to the 26-week target for concluding cases.