Each year approximately 280,000 children have parents who separate, yet this a significant cohort of children is largely invisible in terms of public policy and service provision. Parental separation impacts directly on the work of multiple departments, including MoJ, DWP, DHSS, and DFE, and the annual cost to society has been estimated at over £50 billion.
The Family Solutions Group is a multi-disciplinary group set up by the Honourable Mr Justice Cobb to consider what is needed to improve the experience of families who separate before any application is made to the family court. Currently, the system operates largely for parents and there is insufficient recognition of the impact on children.
The Family Solutions Group carried out two consultations that focused on the needs of children when parents separate. The first with a cross-section of experienced multidisciplinary professionals and the second with members of the UK Youth Parliament, aged 11-18.
The results revealed common themes about the needs and experiences of children when parents separate. It also showed that, despite the large numbers of children affected, there are substantive barriers to improving children’s and young people’s outcomes when parents separate. The key barrier to progress is a lack of political oversight for separating families, with no one government department taking responsibility for the 3.6 million children who live in separated families.