Family Proceedings

Ministry of Justice written question – answered on 9 May 2023.

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Photo of Tan Dhesi Tan Dhesi Shadow Minister (Transport)

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what recent assessment he has made of the adequacy of support available to (a) fathers, (b) mothers and (c) parental guardians going through court proceedings.

Photo of Mike Freer Mike Freer Assistant Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

We are aware of the impact involvement in family court proceedings can have on the fathers, mothers or parental guardians and children involved, which is why this Government is committed to ensuring that all parents can get the support they need to access the justice system across England and Wales.

Since 2015, the Ministry of Justice has invested more than £25 million in support for litigants in person and funding a broad range of free legal support services.

The government announced in March a new £10.4m 'Improving Outcomes Through Legal Support' grant. This grant will run from July 2023 until March 2025 and will be administered by the Access to Justice Foundation on behalf of the Ministry of Justice. The grant will continue to help thousands of people get access to legal support, including from organisations who provide at-court support.

In addition to this, the charity ‘Support Through Court’ offer practical, procedural and emotional support to all parents facing court without legal representation, regardless of their gender or sex. Support Through Court is based at 14 locations in England and Wales, and also offers a national helpline.

The Government is committed to helping more parents resolve their issues earlier and without coming to court, 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. 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. The government invested £3.2m in 2021-22, a further £5.4m in the scheme in the 2022-23 and is investing a further £15m to extend the scheme to April 2025, taking our overall investment up to £23.6m. Following the success of the Voucher Scheme, the Government has recently published a public consultation on how Government can better support parents to resolve their issues earlier and away from the family courts where appropriate. Proposals include fully funded pre-court co-parenting programmes to provide parents and carers with the tools to enable them to reach agreements themselves and continue to care for their child(ren) once separated and a requirement, in appropriate cases, to make a reasonable attempt to mediate before applying to court. The consultation closes on 15 June.

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