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Women’s Aid publishes report into implementation of Harm Panel recommendations

In 2020, the Ministry of Justice-appointed 'Harm Panel' published a report into the family justice system. The Harm Panel reported that the family court system was seriously failing and in private law proceedings was creating further harm and trauma for women and children. The government responded to the Panel's report by publishing an implementation plan.

Two years on, Women's Aid have published a report titled 'Two years, too long: Mapping action on the Harm Panel's findings'. This report reveals that despite some progress, not enough work has been done to transform the system as recommended by the Harm Panel.

Key findings of Women's Aid include:

• All of the survivors contributing to the report felt that their children's thoughts, wishes or feelings had not been listened to or acted upon;

• An underlying culture of misogyny, mother-blaming and victim-blaming continues in the family courts;

• Women continue to be accused of "parental alienation" when they raise valid concerns around domestic abuse and child safety;

• Family court proceedings continue to be trauma-inducing, rather than trauma-aware.

A further point repeatedly raised in the report is that children have repeatedly been forced into unsafe contact arrangements with abusive parents on the basis that having contact with both parents is always in the child's best interests.

Farah Nazeer, Chief Executive of Women's Aid, said:

"The current system, based on misogyny, victim-blaming, and a lack of understanding trauma is as tragic as it is unacceptable: we must show women and children that they will be listened to, believed and supported. 

"We call on the government to ensure the Harm Panel recommendations are actioned as a matter of urgency- there can be no further delay. We are ready and willing to work with agencies and organisations across the family courts system to ensure progress: only by working together can we achieve the results we need. We know that the implementation of the Harm Panel report can deliver real change, and at Women's Aid, we will not stop campaigning until all women and children are safe."

For the Women's Aid report, click here.

Julia Queen, Barrister, Coram Chambers