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Proposals for family justice observatory supported by lawyers

9th Sep 2016

Leading family law practitioners have voiced their support for researchers to explore the possibility of an ‘observatory’ which will improve the use of evidence in the family justice system.

A national call for evidence has been issued for ‘Towards a Family Justice observatory’, a project led by Lancaster University which is aimed at developing the generation, communication, and application of research in family cases.

In 2011, the Family Justice Review highlighted deficiencies in the current research system and called for a ‘coordinated and system wide approach to research and evaluation’ supported by a dedicated research budget. Then, in 2015, the Nuffield Foundation sought to tackle the issues by setting out a preliminary case for a family justice ‘observatory’ that focused on the need for a new organisational structure.

The current system was criticised for having a ‘paucity of empirical research evidence’ for policy-makers and practitioners while a ‘lack of consensus’ existed within the research community on how current evidence impacted policy and decision-making.

The existing framework was also condemned for failing to equip research users with training to source, interpret, or apply research evidence in particular cases, as well as addressing ethical and legal issues, especially in the courtroom.

The charitable trust said that the functions of a new ‘observatory’ would aim to improve the evidence-base, integrate and promote the use of evidence, and provide training for researchers to improve the rigour and relevance of research on the family justice system.

Lancaster University, in partnership with the Alliance for Useful Evidence, will lead the project. The University is welcoming evidence from practitioners, national and local policy makers, academics, and parties to cases such as parents and carers.