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Convene a ‘Voice of the Child’ external advisory group to improve practice and make sure mediation is focused on the best outcomes for any children involved.The remit of this advisory group was to consider child inclusive models of out of court dispute resolution, including family mediation as it relates to private law matters. The overriding objective was to make sure the necessary steps are taken to promote child inclusive practice and make sure that children’s and young people’s voices are heard.
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Family justice organisation Resolution welcomed the recommendation that children be included in family mediation sessions. Resolution spokesperson Karin Walker says:
'The creation of this report was a substantial undertaking and I am grateful to everyone involved. I acknowledge that some of the recommendations will require a change of culture within the dispute resolution sector. Indeed, many of the Group's recommendations can only be achieved through the hard work, desire and good will of dispute resolution professionals. My belief remains clear, however; children and young people should have the opportunity to have their voices heard in matters that affect their future. This report will play a significant role in helping children and young people have that voice in out of court dispute resolution.'
'We’re encouraged by the Government’s firm support for the principle of child inclusive practice and the presumption that children and young people should have the opportunity to have their voices heard during their parents’ separation, including mediation. Whilst children should not be actively involved in the issues surrounding the separation of their parents, it is important that they have the opportunity to express their feelings about the impact of decisions on their lives.
Resolution has actively supported children’s right to have their voices heard, with Resolution-trained mediators often being specially trained to see children in direct consultation. In this context, the issue of parental consent and confidentiality is vitally important. This has been carefully considered by the Advisory Group and reflected in the government report.
This is a huge step towards child inclusive dispute resolution, enabling and empowering parents to focus their minds on outcomes which take account the best interests of their children. We urge Government to consider the report’s request for funding for child inclusive mediation as an ongoing process during a divorce, rather than a one off event for the child or young person. Resolution considers inclusion of children’s rights and wishes throughout the separation process to play a crucial role in helping separating families move on with their lives.'