The government has made the commitment that from the age of 10, children and young people involved in all family court hearings in England and Wales will have access to judges to make their views and feelings known.
The announcement was made following calls from young peoples representative group, the Family Justice Young People’s Board, that for too long children have been pushed and pulled through the family justice system with little or no say on what happens to them.
Family Justice Minister Simon Hughes said:
Children and young people must by law have their views heard before decisions are made about their future, and where decisions are made that will impact them. At the moment, it is still too often that their views are not heard.
Our commitment to giving children the chance to speak to a judge and make clear their views means children will not only be seen in family courts but they will have their own voice heard. This will put them firmly at the heart of the Family Justice System.
The government will also work with mediator sector so that children have appropriate access to mediators in cases which affect them.
The age of 10 has been used to be consistent with other existing policy and practice in this country. It is the age of criminal responsibility for young people in England and Wales.
The changes that will effect public and private law cases will be implemented as soon as is practically possible.
The Ministry of Justice will be working with the Family Court judges, with the Children and Family Courts Advisory and Support Service and most importantly with young people themselves to implement this change.
Simon Hughes’ speech at the Voice of the Child conference.