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Family Court Focus

The Family Court Section AGM on 17th September was, unfortunately, not quorate. This means that all existing section officers will remain in post until an extraordinary AGM is held early in the new year.

Despite this we had a lively meeting and passed a number of motions (with indicative votes) on: the 2018/2019 pay award; a welcome to our new CEO and the need to meet with her as soon as possible; TOIL and overtime policies; public law filing dates; the use of specialist equipment at home. The details of these motions have been provided to FCS members by Co-Chair, Steve Hornby.

We also discussed a motion to take to Napo’s AGM in October, calling for Cafcass to move from the MoJ back to the Department of Education. It is clear that Cafcass is not a priority for the MoJ and the Minister with responsibilities for child protection, local authority children’s social care and family law is in fact based in the DoE.

Finally, AGS, Dean Rogers gave us the background to the reps three-day training, for FCS members. This is open to anyone who is interested and will be taking place from 19th to 21st November at Quorn Grange in Leicestershire.

Both I and General Secretary, Ian Lawrence, spoke at AGM.

I spoke mainly about the need to increase activism in the Family Court Section, including filling vacancies on our family section committees and to recruit members to our journal editorial board.

At the time of writing, no member has come forward for nomination to take the post of National Vice-Chair at AGM. I have to stand down next month at AGM. It will be very unfortunate if there is then nobody fulfilling the role of vice-chair. If no other nominations are received NEC (due to meet on 26 November) will have the option to either run another full election or to appoint someone as an interim Vice Chair.

I also spoke about member recruitment in Cafcass generally. This remains difficult despite the best efforts of the Section Executive and our Membership Secretary, Adam Harmsworth.

Ian spoke about the political situation, reflecting on Napo’s input to the TUC congress the previous week.
He also extended Napo’s best wishes to the new Cafcass CE, Jackie Tiotto, saying her appointment was an opportunity to “spell out the need for a new partnership approach with senior Cafcass management” to obtain better resourcing for the service.

Ian said: “no matter how many times you reorder the jigsaw pieces around available staff and resources, it is clear that there are huge gaps that simply cannot be plugged. We need a major sea change in attitude from Government Ministers the resources that they are prepared to allocate Cafcass, but unfortunately right now, this Government is into cheap shot populist electioneering with their ‘lock em up and throw away the key’ policies that present the notion of 10k additional prison places as a bigger priority than preventing crime in the first place. If anything needs to be done and quickly Boris, how about finding a solution to the interminable situation about Litigants in Person within the Family Court system”.

Jay Barlow
National Vice-Chair FCS

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