Sunday, September 26, 2010

Are Separated Parents Information Programmes going to be made compulsory?

According to a report in The Times yesterday, Separated Parents Information Programmes (PIPs) are to be made compulsory, as part of the Family Justice Review, 'with only funding and the extent of the compulsory element to be agreed'.

Funding currently comes from Cafcass and, as we all know, the very future of Cafcass is under review, so quite where the money will come from if Cafcass is abolished, I have no idea. Perhaps they will set up another quango. Funding aside, the interesting point is just what 'compulsory' will mean. Will it, for example, mean that all parents wishing to apply for residence or contact orders must first attend a PIP? If so, there could be two hurdles to go through before issuing an application: mediation assessment and attending a PIP. Such extra barriers to court proceedings will doubtless be attractive, both to those who wish to discourage conflict, and to those who hold the purse strings.

Meanwhile, Family Law Week reports that: "Following the criticism by Sir Nicholas Wall, President of the Family Division, of the damage caused by separating parents to their children through their ongoing contact and residence disputes, Cafcass has drawn attention to the assistance offered by court-ordered Separated Parents Information Programmes." Cafcass Chief Executive Anthony Douglas is quoted as saying that the courts are already "increasingly ordering that parents attend the programmes following recommendations from Cafcass workers" and that in a survey 59% of parents had indicated that their behaviour had changed as a result of attending.

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UPDATE: PIPs are certainly the thing of the moment. The Law Society Gazette now reports a surge in judges ordering them.

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