24hr Domestic Abuse Helplines:Herefordshire & Shropshire: 0800 783 1359Telford & Wrekin: 0800 840 3747Worcestershire: 0800 980 3331
24hr Domestic Abuse Helplines: Herefordshire & Shropshire: 0800 783 1359
Telford & Wrekin: 0800 840 3747
Worcestershire: 0800 980 3331

We recently attended a meeting hosted by Harriette Drew, Senior Policy Officer of Women’s Aid Federation to discuss the following keys issues facing survivors in the family courts.

• Children’s voices not being heard.
• Cafcass not engaging with specialist services during their safeguarding checks.*
• Perpetrators weaponizing concerns about the survivor’s mental health to gain custody of children.
• Late notice court listings and cancellations, as well as long delays to cases.
• Judges not viewing refuge as an appropriate place for children.*
• Special measures not routinely available.*
• Translators often not available, even when requested in advance.
• Barring orders not easy to access.
• False allegations of parental alienation.
• Perpetrators increasingly awarded 50/50 custody.
• Difficulty finding legal aid solicitors.
• Domestic abuse not being understood, especially by judges.

Some of these issues have already been taken forward here in West Mercia, where we are working with Public Health Worcestershire who have set up a group to drive discussion and change locally. This group was set up directly as a result of the concerns raised by survivors involved in the Lived Experience Advisory Group project that was set up in 2023 to enable victim-survivors to share their concerns and views with decision-makers in Herefordshire and Worcestershire. This important work has succeeded in involving judges from the local Family Courts, and has also reached out to the DA Commissioner and to other national initiatives that are working to shine a light on urgent need for change in the way that the Family Courts operate where domestic abuse is a feature for families.

How can I help?

Claire Throssell, an amazing survivor ambassador whose two children were killed by their father during a contact visit, has a petition about safe child contact. She is almost at 100k signatures – please help her get there! Child First: Safe Child Contact Saves Lives | 38 Degrees

Mel B, Women’s Aid’s patron, has a new petition on training for judges in the family courts which chimes strongly with the themes that came out of our discussion last week. We’re very keen to highlight this issue ahead of the 4th anniversary of the Harm Panel report in a couple of months – please do sign it here: Sign Melanie Brown MBE’s Family Courts Petition | Campaign with Women’s Aid (womensaid.org.uk)