The Nuffield Foundation first proposed a Family Justice Observatory in 2015. One of the many problems identified by the Family Justice Review (DfE 2011) was the limited use of research findings and analyses of administrative data in family justice decision-making. In 2015, following discussion with key experts, the Nuffield Foundation published a report titled: ‘Towards a Family Justice Observatory’. In this report the Foundation set out its intention to try to improve the generation and application of research, through the establishment of a Family Justice Observatory.
In June 2016 The Nuffield Foundation commissioned a consortium led by The Centre for Child and Family Justice Research at Lancaster University, to carry out a 12-month scoping study to explore the feasibility of establishing a new observatory and its potential functions.
This mixed-methods study comprised:
In 2017 the Nuffield Foundation published The Nuffield Family Justice Observatory for England and Wales: Making it Happen which summarised the findings of the scoping study and set out the foundation’s trustees intention to establish the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory for a five year incubation phase.
The Nuffield Foundation then identified a fund of up to £5 million for the incubation and piloting of the Family Justice Observatory, beginning with a 12-month development phase from March 2018. A development team led by The Centre for Child and Family Justice Research worked on the infrastructure and operating model for the Observatory.
By the end of the development phase the following was established:
By the end of the development phase there will be a clear work plan for at least the first year of the Nuffield FJO pilot.
Throughout the development phase and into the launch of the pilot delivery phase, the development team and the Foundation will engage with stakeholders through regional partnerships and events and undertake a number of consultation activities. Stakeholders will be updated through regular communication, and resources will be made freely available as they are developed.
The Development Team was made up of:
The development phase was being overseen by an Interim Steering Group:
The purpose of two consultation workshops was to narrow the priorities for the new Observatory and help inform an inaugural work plan. Improving the use of evidence in the family justice system requires close working and collaboration across all stakeholder groups to set agendas and pilot and test Observatory outputs.
In March 2019 the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory entered its pilot phase, to run until March 2023.
Nuffield FJO in development