The aim of this study is to identify potential approaches for a Supporting Separated Family Alliance which reduces the number of parents entering into private law applications in Wales.

Overview

This scoping study aims to identify what services are currently available in Wales to support families who are separating and consider the options available for the creation of child-focused local family alliances which can meet the diverse needs of separating families.

The Child Arrangements Programme (CAP) was designed to resolve low risk cases away from the court arena. Since its introduction in 2014, there has been an increase in the number of private law applications and unrepresented litigants which have served to reduce the effectiveness of the CAP (Private Law Working Group, 2019). The number of private law applications have been rising to the extent that the courts, ‘ability to resolve cases has been outstripped by the volume of new applications coming in’ (Sir Andrew McFarlane, December 2019). Alongside these increases there has been an overreliance on family courts, with parents demonstrating unrealistic expectations as to what the court can and should do (Private Law Working Group, 2019). Yet, the Private Law Working Group (2019) has highlighted that the court process can serve to escalate conflict as family courts are an inappropriate vehicle for conflict resolution between separating parents. In order for the CAP to fulfil its initial aim of diverting low risk cases away from family courts, the review recommended the creation of local family alliances of services that offer integrated child-focused support to separating families (Private Law Working Group, 2019). In England, the Improving Lives: Helping Workless Families (2017) Reducing Conflict Programme aims to embed evidence-based interventions for parental conflict into family services provision with more practitioners receiving training in these approaches. In Wales, there are a range of existing specialist and community services available to meet the diverse needs of families yet there is a lack of coherence and awareness regarding existing provision. Such fragmentation is not unique to Wales, Marjoribanks (2015) review found gaps between mediation, relationship counselling, parenting programmes, contact centres and an overall lack of inter-agency working and communication. What is needed is the development of wraparound services that provide support to families before, during and after separation away from the court arena, where it is appropriate to do to (Marjoribanks, 2015).

Activities and Methods

The scoping study has three main workstreams:

(a) findings from interviews with key stakeholders

(b) a mapping exercise of existing services and

(c) a roundtable discussion with key stakeholders.

The study will focus on services that support separation, parenting and the diverse needs of families, including BAME, LBGTQ+ and disabilities.


Lead Person

Principal InvestigatorNina Maxwell

Academic Staff

Academic StaffJulie Doughty (co-I)
Academic StaffCatrin Wallace
Related SchoolsSchool of Law and Politics
FundersWelsh Government