The first All-Party Parliamentary Group on Child Contact Centres and Services was held in Parliament in June. The group has been set up to strengthen our engagement with MPs and Lords to discuss issues around child contact and raise awareness of child contact centres and services in Parliament. Nottingham East MP, Chris Leslie, chaired the group and introduced guest speaker, Sir James Munby, former President of the Family Division and Patron of National Association of Child Contact Centres. Co-Chair Baroness McIntosh of Pickering, Stephen Pound MP and The Earl of Listowel joined the meeting to discuss issues as well as several stakeholders from Cafcass, Family Law Bar Association and NACCC.
Chris Leslie MP opened the meeting highlighting the cost of private law cases and the need to divert cases out of court where possible. Sir James Munby stated that except in very specific circumstances, every child not living with both parents needs ‘proper contact’ with the parent they are not living with and NACCC and its membership provides reliable child contact centres. The current situation is that there are too many private law cases going through court with a 15% increase in private and public law case each year. This is unsustainable, and the system is unable to cope. Rates of mediation have also decreased which is a problem. In some cases parents involve children in divorce disputes leading to a downward spiral in relationships. The court process is adversarial and protracted which is of course damaging to children. Separating couples sometimes use domestic violence as a tactical move to delay proceedings. Judges are pulled into minutia of detail.
It was decided that the scope of the APPG should be extended to the wider non-governmental community. Support should be secured for an MP to introduce a Private Members Bill on Accreditation. Child contact issues concerning ethnic minority groups should be discussed at future meetings and consideration on how to move child contact and the ‘Out of Court Pathway’ up the government agenda.
The full minutes of the meeting are available to download from the NACCC website The next meeting will be announced in October for November and the AGM is scheduled for January 2019. You can join the distribution list and be invited to future APPG meetings by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Richard Daniels, Government Relations Adviser