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Presumption of Parental Involvement Review

Volume 683: debated on Monday 9 November 2020

On the 25 June 2020, the Government published the final report on Assessing Risk of Harm to Children and Parents in Private Law Children Cases, alongside an implementation plan. The report contained a number of recommendations from a panel that included external experts, and the implementation plan set out how the Government proposed to address the recommendations.

One of the recommendations made by the panel was

“that the presumption of parental involvement be reviewed urgently in order to address its detrimental effects.”

I am pleased to announce the commencement of a review of the presumption of parental involvement in child arrangements, and certain other private law children proceedings. This review will focus on the application of the presumption and the statutory exception in cases where there are allegations or other evidence to suggest that involvement of the parent would put the child at risk of harm.

The review will focus both on the courts’ application of the presumption, as well as on the impact on children’s welfare of the courts’ application of these provisions. In particular, the review will examine:

(i) how courts are applying sections 1(2A), (2B) and (6) of the Children Act 1989, which together require courts to presume, in child arrangements and certain other private law children proceedings, that involvement of a parent in the child’s life will further the child’s welfare, unless there is evidence to suggest that involvement of that parent would put the child at risk of suffering harm, and to define involvement as ‘involvement of some kind, either direct or indirect, but not any particular division of a child’s time’;

(ii) and the impacts on children’s welfare of the courts’ application of these provisions.

This is an important, and complex, issue and this approach is intended to identify whether any reforms are needed in this area, and if so, what kind (legislative or otherwise), and to ensure that any conclusions and recommendations are rooted in a solid understanding of the effect of the presumption and its exception, and the evidence base surrounding its application.

I am establishing an Advisory Group to guide the evidence gathering for this important review. The Advisory Group members will be:

Rachel Thomas, Welsh Children’s Commissioner’s Office

Nicole Jacobs, the Domestic Abuse Commissioner

Peter Jackson LJ

HHJ Michelle Corbett

Jacky Tiotto, CEO Cafcass

Matthew Pinnell, Cafcass Cymru

Tammy Knox, Resolution

Michael Lewkowicz, Families Need Fathers

The evidence that this review will gather will include a case file review, input from those working in the family courts, and an academic literature review of how the presumption is currently applied and the impact of parental involvement on the wellbeing of the child.

The Ministry of Justice will follow a competitive tender process to identify the most appropriate individuals to conduct the evidence review.

I anticipate being able to update the House before summer recess with the outcomes of the review.