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Tackling violence against women and girls is a priority for new Crime Prevention Minister Jeremy Browne, who has set out the government'’s ambition to end these 'terrible crimes' in his first speech on the issue.

The Minister told the Women Against Violence Europe Conference that he is determined to continue work to address the issue.

Jeremy Browne said: 'Violence against women is insidious and it is pervasive: in the UK one in four women will be the victim of domestic abuse over the course of their lifetime, and in the last year over 300,000 women were sexually assaulted and 60,000 women were raped.

'And behind each of those statistics is a woman or child whose life has been ruined. Violence against women has damaged our society for too long. It must stop.'

The Minister told delegates of ongoing work to address violence against women, including the ring-fencing of £40 million for vital services until 2015.

A major focus is being put on prevention as well as extra protection being offered to women. This includes the introduction of two new stalking offences, extending the definition of domestic violence and pilots of Domestic Violence Protection Orders and the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme.

The Minister also stressed that Government is working closely with a wide range of partners to ensure maximum support for women.

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0.

The latest figures from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) have shown that there was an 7.9% increase in the total number of applications received between April and September 2012 over the same period last year. The total number of applications received during that period this year was 5,374.

Each month of this financial year has seen the highest ever number of applications recorded for that individual month, with the exception of June.

During May and July 2012 Cafcass received 982 applications each month, the highest figure ever recorded for a single month.

Nagalro, the Professional Association for Children's Guardians, Family Court Advisers and Independent Social Workers, has recently published details of its submission to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Child Protection on how children will be affected by the government's proposed reforms of the family courts.

Nagalro's submission relates to three main areas:

  • the plan to reduce court scrutiny of children's care plans;
  • the impact of the proposal to limit care proceedings cases to six months, and
  • how to ensure that decisions taken are in the best interests of children.

Nagalro has welcomed the Government's commitment to ensuring that both parents can continue to be involved in a child's life after separation, but does not believe that the legislative options proposed by the Government are the best way of achieving this aim. Nagalro would prefer to see the change be driven by a focus on children's welfare, rather than on the rights of parents.

Nagalro would like to see more opportunities for children's voices to be heard in private law cases, and greater support for both parents and children going through separation or divorce.

 

A change in legislation that came into effect on 1st October has given couples tying the knot greater freedom of choice in the time their ceremony takes place.

People wanting to get married or register a civil partnership will be able to do so any time of the day or night under the Protection of Freedoms Act. Couples were previously restricted to between 8am and 6pm.

Mark Harper, Home Office Minister with responsibility for the General Register Office, said: 'The public requested that we repeal this law and we listened.

'Removing these restrictions will give people greater freedom of choice when planning their big day.'

This change is one of a number of measures being introduced as part of the Protection of Freedoms Act, which received Royal Assent in May this year. It was raised by members of the public through a cross-government survey, ‘Your Freedom’.

People had the chance to suggest ideas on restoring liberties that have been lost, repealing unnecessary laws and stripping away excessive regulation. The Act aims to put traditional British freedoms at the heart of the Whitehall agenda.

The change is permissive in that neither local authorities or religious groups are required to provide services outside the traditional hours.

A recent study from America has found that young adults are increasingly marrying at later ages—if at all—and giving birth to more children outside of marriage.

According to the study, from the Population Reference Bureau (PRB), only 20% of all households included married couples with children in 2010, down from a high of 44% in 1960. By contrast, people living alone now represent 27% of all households.

Other findings of the report include:

  • By 2012, only 46% of young adults ages 25 to 34 were married, down from 55% in 2000. The median age at first marriage continues to rise, reaching 28.1 for men and 26.5 for women in 2011.
  • Married couples and unmarried cohabiting couples are equally likely to have children younger than age 18 in their home, about 40% for each group.
  • In 2010, 41% of all births were to unmarried parents, up from 33% in 2000. The steepest increases in nonmarital births were among women in their 20s: about 63% of births to women ages 20 to 24 occurred outside of marriage in 2010.
  • Not only are women having fewer children (the current U.S. average is 1.9 children per woman), but rates of childlessness also have increased. Between 1980 and 2010, the share of women ages 40 to 44 who were childless nearly doubled, increasing from 10% to 19%.

"If current trends continue, more men and women will postpone marriage until their 30s, thus spending a smaller portion of their adult lives married," said Mark Mather, associate vice president of Domestic Programs at PRB and report co-author. "Compared to their mothers and grandmothers, more of today's 25-year-olds appear on track to remain unmarried through age 40."

Recent figures released by the Department of Education have shown that there were 67,050 looked after children at 31st March 2012, an increase of 2% compared to the same point last year, and an increase of 13% compared to 31st March 2008.

Of children looked after at 31st March 2012, 50,260 were cared for in a foster placement. This represents 75% of all children looked after at 31st March 2012. There were 3,450 looked after children adopted during the year, which is the highest figure since 2007 and an increase of 12% from the 2011 figure.

Edward Timpson, Minister for Children and Families, said:

“The rise in the number of adoptions and adoption placement orders is extremely welcome, but it still takes too long for those who want to adopt and foster to be approved. The time it takes for a child in care to be adopted can be a significant period in that child’s life.

“So we are looking at measures to encourage councils to make use of adopters in other parts of the country. We will shorten the approval process and fast track those who are already foster carers.

“Taken together I hope these reforms will, over time, encourage more people to come forward and volunteer to adopt children. I want more young children to have a settled start in life with a loving family.

“That way, they can make a profound and lasting impact on young lives.”

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0.

Charity 4Children has issued a statement following the Government's announcement that it is broadening the definition of domestic violence in order to cover coercive control and under-18s for the first time.

Anne Longfield, Chief Executive of 4Children said:

“This proposal to broaden the definition of domestic violence will be welcomed throughout homes across the UK as it acknowledges that violence towards a partner can often encompass a variety of harms beyond the physical. However, there should be concern that these proposals may not have gone far enough by failing to encompass violence between other members of a family. Domestic violence is too often seen as partner on partner, but it far more complex than that, and needs wider definition.

“In 4Children’s Give Me Strength campaign report earlier this year, The Enemy Within, we unveiled a shocking - yet consistently under-reported - prevalence of violence within the family, including an increasing incidence of child on parent and inter-sibling violence.

“As a result, it is clear that Government’s must continue to take on a family approach to reducing family violence to recognise and respond to the damaging impact of both domestic and family violence on children, families and wider society.”

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."

A new report by The Children's Society has highlighted a need for stronger statutory guidance to make sure that every child in the care system has access to vital independent advocacy.

The role of an independent advocate is to make sure that children in care have their views heard and acted upon. An advocate works directly with the child, giving them the opportunity to make their opinion known when it comes to decisions about their lives.

The report found that children and young people in care are experiencing inconsistency across England in getting advocacy help, which can have a massive impact on their lives. The problem is worst for the most vulnerable groups of children, including disabled and very young children.

The charity, which runs nine advocacy services across England, reviewed 142 cases and found that providing children with this support can lead to stronger care placements, boost educational attainment and have other enormous benefits.

The Children's Society found that just under half of cases they assessed involved children and young people with special educational needs (SEN) and/or a disability. It also found that that placement, taking part in their reviews and leaving care were the issues that children and young people most frequently expressed their need for support.

The charity conducted a review of services from a practice base, looking at the services provided and how advocacy plays a crucial role in the well-being of children and young people, especially those in care who often have decisions made about their lives without being consulted. It also looks at the financial implications and how advocacy now could save local authorities money in the long-term.

The Law Commission has published a supplementary consultation paper on needs and non-matrimonial property.

The consultation is seeking views on two specific aspects of the law relating to financial provision on divorce:

  • to what extent one spouse should be required to meet the other’s financial needs, and what exactly is meant by needs; and
  • what happens to property that one of the partners owned before the relationship or acquired during the course of it.

Launching the consultation, Law Commissioner Professor Elizabeth Cooke said:

“When two people bring their marriage or civil partnership to an end it is vital that the law is able to help them resolve their financial arrangements as quickly and fairly as possible. The current law creates too much potential for uncertainty and inconsistency. We are seeking consultees’ views on a range of short- and long-term reforms, with the aim of bringing as much certainty as possible to this difficult area of law.”

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0.

Posted by on in Divorce

A recent study has found that disputes over household chores comes closely after infidelity and drifting apart in the list of reasons why UK couples get divorced, reports the Daily Mail.

The research, carried out by Vileda, found that 56% of people polled thought disputes over normal domestic chores played a major part in their decision to separate. Items left lying around the house was the most common cause of argument (26%), followed by partners 'not pulling their weight' and not doing the washing up.

Lindsey Taylor, brand manager for Vileda, said: 'There may be another major reason behind a break-up, such as money worries or drifting apart, but it can be the little rows over things like washing up that can help tip rowing couples over the edge,' reports the Daily Mail.

A report by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Looked After Children and Care Leavers has recommended that schools should receive an extra £1,000 of funding for every child they teach from foster or residential care, reports The Who Cares? Trust.

Children in care perform less well on average at school and are also more likely to be excluded. The proposed 'pupil premium plus' would provide additional support for these children at school with the aim of improving their attainment.

Edward Timpson MP, who chairs the APPG on Looked After Children and Care Leavers, said:

“Education can be a lifeline for looked-after children. The pupil premium plus would be a well-targeted way to get extra resources directly to the children and really make a difference.”

The Office for National Statistics has published a bulletin giving statistics on live births in England and Wales in 2011 by parents’ country of birth.

The statistics reveal that a quarter of births in 2011 were to mothers born outside the UK, which is a slight increase from 2010.

Poland remains the most common country of birth for non-UK born mothers in 2011 and Pakistan remains the most common country of birth for non-UK born fathers. Newham remains the local authority with the highest proportion of births to non-UK born women 77% in 2011.

In 2011, a much higher proportion of births to non UK-born women took place within marriage/ civil partnership (75%) than for UK-born mothers (45%). This is a similar pattern to previous years.

There is considerable variation in the proportion of births within marriage/civil partnership depending on the country of birth of the mother, for example, 93% of births to mothers born in North Africa took place within marriage/civil partnership in 2011 in comparison to 38% of births to mothers born in the Caribbean. These variations reflect different societal expectations between cultures, for example, the acceptability of cohabitation.

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0.

A recent study from America has found that modern technology such as email, texts or social media can be an effective method of communication for separating or divorcing couples, but can also be open to abuse.

Researchers at the University of Missouri interviewed divorced parents about the state of their relationship with their ex-partner. They found that parents whose relationship was generally cooperative found communication technology a useful way of sharing information about their children. However, couples that had a hostile relationship used the technology to manipulate their ex-partner, for example by pretending not to have received emails.

“Parents who are hostile need to set their feelings aside and understand that they need to communicate effectively in order to protect the emotional well-being of their children,” said Lawrence Ganong, a professor of human development and family studies at MU. “Email is a great resource for hostile parents who can’t talk face-to-face. They can communicate essential information while editing what they say to avoid conflict. Also, the parents have a record of what was agreed upon.”

As this year’s GCSE results are published, the Fostering Network Wales is calling on the Welsh Government and local authorities to focus on providing stable foster care in order to help looked-after children do better in education.

The call follows the publication of a new report from the Welsh Audit Office, which highlights that while the education of children in care is improving, too many are not achieving their potential.

In 2011, 23% of looked after children achieved the benchmark of five A to C grades in their GCSEs, compared to 67% of all children in Wales, while 29% of young people leaving care had no qualifications at all.

Commenting on the report, Freda Lewis, director of the Fostering Network Wales, said: “While the education of children in care in Wales has improved, their achievements still fall well behind their peers and this cannot continue.

“With the number of children coming into care continuing to rise and the vast majority going to live with foster carers, the Welsh Government and local authorities must ensure fostering is a priority so these children get the right support at home as well as in the classroom.”

The head of international family justice for England and Wales, Lord Justice Sir Mathew Thorpe, has welcomed the news that Japan is to sign the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, reports The Japan Times.

The 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention applies typically where one parent has moved a child abroad without the consent of the other parent and without the permission of a court. In such a case, the “left behind” parent may apply through the Hague system for the prompt return of the child, and a “return order” will be issued unless the “taking parent” can establish that one of the exceptions found in the Convention should be applied.

Speaking to The Japan Times, Lord Justice Thorpe said: "It will bring Japan into treaty relationship with 87 other countries, and that enables people to recover to Japan children who have been wrongly removed from Japan by one or other parent."

The move will also help non-Japanese parents recover children that have been taken from their home to Japan by a parent without court permission.

Following the success of the first Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) in London, a second specialist court is to open in Gloucestershire.

The courts provide specialist help to parents who are experiencing problems with drugs or alcohol. According to Gloucestershire Council, the aim of the court service is to speed up care proceedings so that the affected children can be found a safe, permanent home, either with their own family or an adoptive family.

Cllr Paul McLain, Cabinet Member for Vulnerable Families, said: "The specialist service and the new Family Drug and Alcohol Court will give families struggling with drug and alcohol problems intensive support to turn themselves around.

"Parents will get help to get clean, stay clean and be better parents so that, where possible, they can care for their children. The focus will be on the family's needs, concerns and strengths with everyone working towards the best possible outcome for the children - a stable and safe home."

A new study from America has found that more and more adults age 50 and over are choosing to live with their significant other instead of marrying them.

The study, by researchers at the National Center for Family and Marriage Research (NCFMR) at Bowling Green State University, found that cohabitation among adults over age 50 more than doubled from 1.2 million in 2000 to 2.75 million in 2010.

According to Dr. Susan Brown, lead author of the study and co-director of the NCFMR, cohabitation among older adults is important because it plays a unique role in the lives of older Americans. Living together provides many of the benefits of marriage such as partnership, without the potential costs, like the mingling of financial assets. “Older adults desire an intimate partnership, but without the legal constraints marriage entails,” Brown commented.

Demographically, researchers found that women are especially reluctant to marry in later life, citing caregiving strains that marriage may involve as well as perceived loss of freedom. Most older cohabiters are divorced, followed by widowed, and then never married, whereas older widowers were more likely to remarry.

Children's charity Barnardo's has commented on the recent ONS publication that shows there was an increase in the number of adoptions in 2011 compared to 2010.

The statistics show that nearly two-thirds (62%) of children adopted in England & Wales last year were aged between one and four. The 2011 figure was an increase on the previous year, when one to four-year-olds made up 58% of adoptions in England and Wales. There was also a 6% increase in the overall level of adoptions, with 4,734 in 2011 compared with 4,481 in 2010.

Barnardo’s UK Director of Strategy, Janet Grauberg, said:

“The fact that more children are being adopted and at a younger age, is very good news.

“But the increase, although heartening, is still small. We need to strive to move these children to a permanent, stable and secure family as quickly as possible, as the longer a child waits the more they suffer emotionally and the less likely they are to be adopted.

“Children who wait longest for families are siblings, disabled children, older children, and those from black or minority ethnic backgrounds. We desperately need more people to come forward to adopt children – especially for these groups.”

The Family Rights Group has issued a statement in response to the publication of Mr Justice Ryder’s report into the modernisation of Family Justice.

Cathy Ashley, Chief Executive of Family Rights Group said:

"There is the danger that the unintended consequence of the Government’s proposal to limit care cases to six months will be that children are less likely to be placed with their wider family.

"We are therefore pleased that Mr Justice Ryder has identified that local authorities should explore the potential for a child to return home and the feasibility of children living with their wider family prior to the start of care proceedings. We very much welcome his statement that this is “much more likely to occur where family group conferencing or similar early engagement with family have occurred to identify alternative placements for the child." 

“Family group conferences have the advantage of identifying early on all those who may be important in the child’s life, including paternal relatives, and allow contingency planning so that relatives can put themselves forward and be assessed as potential carers should a child not be able to live with their parents. Unfortunately, at the moment only a small minority of families are offered a family group conference prior to proceedings and three in ten local authorities in England and Wales have no family group conference service at all.

"Mr Justice Ryder’s report however, does not address the increase in relatives who, due to the legal aid reforms, will have to represent themselves in court in order to secure a residence or special guardianship order that could provide a child at risk with a safe, permanent home. It is urgent that the courts are geared up to addressing this.

"We are therefore keen to discuss with Mr Justice Ryder how the Family Court Guide that he is developing will best address family and friends care."

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