Select Committee on Draft Children (Contact) and Adoption Bill First Report

Chapter 2: Contact Activities (clause 1)

177.  We invite the Government to give consideration to permitting either parent to apply to the court where contact has broken down or is not proceeding satisfactorily. This would enable resident parents to apply to the court in circumstances where, in their view, the non-resident parent was failing to discharge his or her responsibilities to the children. It would then be open to the court to impose a contact activity upon that parent. (para 38)

178.  The court should have the power to make a contact activity direction whether or not the application for contact is opposed. (para 40)

179.  We invite the Government to consider including 'perpetrator programmes' (aimed at people who have been violent towards their partners) in the list of contact activity directions. (para 44)

180.  We recommend that the Government give further thought to the relationship between contact activities and those programmes or initiatives which are currently the responsibility of the probation service, and in particular that they clarify the steps that will need to be taken before the family courts can be in a position to refer parents to these statutory and voluntary-run activities. (para 44)

181.  Prior to ordering a contact activity, the Bill should require the court to consider the safety implications of making such a decision, both for the individual parents and for the child; and that the court should not require such an activity unless it is satisfied that it is safe to do so. (para 45)

182.  We recommend that non-statutory guidance is made available to parents involved in contact proceedings and potential providers of contact activities, explaining in more detail what kinds of session, programme or class the courts may order under the contact activity provisions. (para 46)

183.  We recommend that the Government review the availability across England and Wales of the sessions and programmes that might become contact activities. In the light of this review the Government should ensure that there is sufficient funding available for adequate provision across England and Wales. (para 49)

184.  The review of contact activity provision should also consider the setting of minimum requirements which must be met before an organisation can be considered a contact activity provider, or provide for the inspection and approval of an organisation by an appropriately qualified person. (para 52)

185.  We recommend that the Government include within the full Bill a provision giving the Court discretion to refer parties to a mediation service in order to explore whether this could be a viable option in their case. Exploring the prospects for mediation is not, and should not be confused with, compulsory mediation. One way to achieve this would be to bring into force section 13(1) of the Family Law Act 1996 (amended so that it applies not only to divorce cases but to all private law child disputes). (para 59)

186.  The Government may, in the light of evaluation of the Family Resolution Pilot Project, wish to consider taking an order-making power in the full Bill to place family resolution schemes on a statutory footing, should they prove to be effective. (para 66)

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