Pre-legislative scrutiny of the Children and Families Bill - Justice Committee Contents

2  Data

16. We were critical of the lack of available data on the family justice system in our Operation of the Family Courts report, concluding:

This Committee and its predecessor committees have repeatedly highlighted the need for robust data gathering to allow the development of evidence-based policy. We were extremely disappointed by the serious gaps in data that we and the Family Justice Review found during our inquiries. It is a concern to us that major changes to the system are being contemplated when there are such gaps in the evidence base. The Ministry of Justice, in particular Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service, and the Department for Education must begin to improve data collation now; without such evidence, reform of the family justice system could be fatally undermined before it has even begun. We think the Ministry of Justice should take the lead on data collation, and we wish to see a report on progress by the end of 2011.[11]

17. We asked Lord McNally, Minister of State at the Ministry of Justice, and Edward Timpson MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Children and Families) at the Department for Education, to tell us what progress had been made on data collation, and whether similar research to that of the Australian Institute of Family Studies, Evaluation of the 2006 family law reforms would provide more and better data. Mr Timpson told us:

[...] it is so instrumental that we move to a single family court system so that there is a more coherent way of collecting that data. I think you heard evidence yesterday from Mr Justice Ryder about what he was doing in relation to public law proceedings in the care monitoring system, which is starting to collate good and solid information about what is causing delays in individual cases and how the case management processes are becoming more efficient but still need more work in other areas. There is a lot of work that needs to be done.

He also said:

We are keeping a very close eye on the progress that is being made, and if we need to do more we will, of course, look at other avenues that we can explore to ensure that the data is as robust as possible because it is for a purpose. If the data is achieving the ends that we are looking for, which is a more coherent, efficient and progressive family court system, then that will have achieved its aim. It is something that we need to keep under very close scrutiny. [...][12]

18. We are pleased to note the progress that has been made within the family justice system to improve data collation and analysis, for example the new Care Monitoring System; however, this affects only the public law sphere. We recommend that the Government ensures that the effect of the individual draft clauses is recorded and analysed as well as the combined effect of the draft clauses. We have found the evidence of the Australian Institute of Family Studies to be extremely detailed and helpful on a number of private law topics, as did the Norgrove Report and various organisations. We recommend that the Government considers providing funding for a similar scale project within England and Wales, to pool research and provide a platform for future policy formation and discussion.

11   HC (2010-12) 518-I, para 27 Back

12   Qq 145-146 Back

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Prepared 14 December 2012