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The Fostering Network has welcomed the publication of a Government consultation on measures which it hopes will help fostering services recruit more people and support foster carers in providing a normal family environment for their fostered children.

Through the consultation, the Government is seeking views on measures aiming to allow foster carers to make everyday decisions about the children they look after and cut unnecessary bureaucracy in the approval process to encourage more people to come forward to foster.

Robert Tapsfield, chief executive of the Fostering Network, said: “More than three-quarters of the children in care in England live with foster carers, and so ensuring that the system is working well for these children and the families that look after them is essential.

“There is a real need to make sure that foster carers are empowered to take day-to-day decisions regarding the children they foster – currently too many fostered children find themselves missing out on everyday childhood experiences. And we know that improvements must be made to the process of assessing and approving foster carers.

“The Fostering Network welcomes the proposals and encourages all those who share a desire to improve the current system to respond to the consultation and help the Government make changes that will improve the lives of children in foster care."

Families Need Fathers has welcomed the release of the Government’s consultation on proposed legislation on the involvement of both parents in a child’s life. The recognition that the full involvement of both parents is a crucial component of child welfare, and not a challenge to it, is a simple, yet hugely significant, development in family law.

Ken Sanderson, CEO of Families Need Fathers, commented, “By making explicit the importance of both parents being fully involved in their child’s upbringing following divorce or separation, the Government will be making a crucial and long overdue amendment to the law. It will support and strengthen the overwhelming social change over the past 40 years whereby both parents are expected to contribute fully to their child’s wellbeing, both emotionally and materially.”

“These proposals are not just about those families who end up in court; the law provides the context in which those who come to private arrangements approach post-separation parenting, and it is crucial that an expectation is set that all parents should continue to maintain a meaningful relationship with their children. This will help to ensure minimum disruption to the children’s family life, and in doing so promote their social and emotional wellbeing.”

Single parent charity Gingerbread has welcomed the new Report from the Public Accounts Committee published on cuts to the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission. 

The Report shows how plans to slash the budget of the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission by £117 million risk undermining plans for a new effective child maintenance service which delivers for children, says Gingerbread.

The Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission has as its primary goal to maximise the number of children in separated families who are receiving regular child maintenance. Yet the Public Accounts Committee Report draws attention to the way cost considerations are taking first priority, leaving many children at greater risk of poverty.

Commenting on the Public Account Committee’s report, Gingerbread’s CEO Fiona Weir said:

“The Commission is under such pressure to achieve cost savings, the worry is that it will move too soon to start closing down existing CSA cases, hoping that fewer parents will choose to apply to the new system, thus saving it money.  Yet parents need the new system and cannot afford for it to fail.” 

The Bar Council and Family Law Bar Association (FLBA) have urged the Government to take a considered and practical approach to reforming family law and not to rush to legislate, as it published its response to the Family Justice Review.

Commenting on particular areas of the Government’s response, Nicholas Cusworth QC, Chairman of the FLBA, said:

“There are parts of the Government’s response, which we welcome, such as strengthening the Court’s enforcement rules, for which we have called for some time. Current rules are piecemeal and ineffective, and a cohesive approach to revising them would be a positive step.

“However, there are a number of elements of the Government’s response where question marks remain. On shared parenthood, we agree with the Family Justice Review’s finding that, learning lessons from the Australian experience, legislating on this issue risks creating the perception that there is a right to substantially shared or equal time, for both parents. It is already widely understood and applied by the courts that children benefit from having a relationship with both parents and legislation would be unnecessary and may do more harm than good. The Government must consider this with the greatest of care.

“The Government continues to place great emphasis on mediation. Mediation in private law cases is supported and encouraged, but there will always remain a significant minority of cases that do have to go to court. The extent to which the size of that minority diminishes after the introduction of compulsory mediation is not yet clear. Particularly given the likely increase in the numbers of litigants in person anticipated when the LASPO Bill becomes law, there may be very little reduction (if any) in the numbers of private law cases requiring court intervention.”

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