#NQ3 Family Court Section – Professional Conference report

A warm hello to all members. I am pleased to report the Professional Conference for Family Court Section members held in May in Birmingham was a great success.

The conference was called Working with Vulnerable Young People and much of the content was extremely thought provoking, moving and powerful.

Napo general secretary, Ian Lawrence, attended and addressed conference briefly at the start of the day. Ian spoke of his personal experience of being involved with vulnerable children through the medium of youth sport. He took a moment to remind attendees that Napo is still here and still speaking out for members in the justice and family court arenas, adding that a vibrant and viable membership is vital to the continuing success of our trade union.

DC Scott Cairns and DC Emma Bee from the Complex Investigation Team of Leicestershire police presented the tragic case of a young woman and her boyfriend who were savagely beaten by the family of a man the young woman was being forced to marry.

Olivia Fitch, chair of the Family Court Committee, and who is an experienced FCA and trade unionist utilised her breadth of knowledge in chairing the morning session which included presentations from DS Scott Cairns and DC Emma Bee from the Complex Investigation Team of Leicestershire Police; and Jasvinder Sanghera CBE, who spoke in depth on the issue of forced marriages in the UK and what we as professionals can do to safeguard potential victims.

Other powerful messages from the morning speakers were about the importance of recording information accurately as this may be needed for police evidence; the importance of sharing information between agencies including schools, colleges and employers of young vulnerable people and that the idea of “honour and bringing shame” are not part of normal, traditional culture and professionals have a role in telling young people about this. Delegates were reminded how important it is to take a young person seriously when they tell you they fear for their safety and even their lives.

Jasvinder Sanghera CBE, Chief Executive of Karma Nirvana and author of best-seller Shame spoke of how she and her family had been personally affected by forced marriages.

Lord Ponsonby, a Labour peer since 1990, spoke about the work of Parliamentary Unions Justice Group which he chairs. This group has taken over the work of the Family Court Unions’ Parliamentary Group. He also sits as a magistrate in Hammersmith and has been a leading light of the Magistrates’ Association.

Overall, the conference was a very inclusive and positive event, with lots of learning as well as the opportunity to socialise and share ideas with like-minded colleagues and friends.

Conference workshops

As well as a range of great speakers, delegates were also able to access two workshops from the four that ran after lunch.

Sian Hawkins – campaigns and public affairs manager for the women’s aid federation of England – hosted a workshop on Nineteen Child Homicides; an investigation into child deaths as a result of domestic abuse. Her presentation quoted Lord Justice Wall as saying it is “high time that the Family Justice System abandoned any reliance on the proposition that a man can have a history of violence to the mother of his children but, nonetheless, be a good father.”

For further information visit the website for the Child First Campaign at www.womensaid.org.uk/childfirst

Denise Cater used her experience in international child disputes and parental child abduction to deliver a workshop on mediation in high conflict family cases. Denise led the successful pilot project creating a model for mediation in child abduction cases simultaneous with court proceedings. Her expertise was exampled in a case study of a child potentially being taken to Pakistan after the parents separated.

Emma Aldwinckle works as a Family Court Advisor and has a background of working in children’s homes and with young offenders. Her “Autoethnography” workshop spoke on how your personal experiences can be used in a meaningful therapeutic way. Emma highlighted the different forms of eating disorders, the significant number of lives lost to them and the lack of resources to deal with these issues. For further information visit http://www.communitycare.co.uk/2010/08/27/isobesity-a-child-protection-issue/

Ayndrilla Singharay hosted a workshop in her capacity as training and development coordinator for Asha – a London refuge supporting South Asian women. Participants explored forced marriages and the associated issues. Particular attention was paid to the vulnerability of victims and the need to keep safeguarding at the forefront. Many of the case studies reinforced what had been seen in the powerful presentations earlier in the day.

Jay Barlow
National Vice Chair, Family Court Section


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