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Young people and the family justice system

How can we transform the family justice system to promote better outcomes for young people and their families?

Our aim is to work with young people, families and professionals from across children’s services, family justice and youth justice to identify better ways to support and achieve justice for young people.

Students sit exams during COVID-19 pandemic.

Why we need research into young people and the family justice system


We know that older age young people are presenting in increasing numbers in the family court with a range of complex behavioural, extrafamilial and mental health issues.

Public law applications involving 15–17-year-olds doubled between 2011 and 2018, and the number of looked after children has seen a particular rise in the 10-15-year-old age group.

Because of their experiences before entering care, and during care, these young people in care are at greater risk of entering the youth justice system than their peers, and this risk increases for late entrants into care.

We do not know enough about this cohort of young people and what happens to them entering, during and after their interactions with the family justice system. We do not know enough about the impact of decisions made on the outcomes for these young people, their families and communities.

What we are doing


  • Nuffield FJO is bringing together research and the insights of professionals, academics and experts by experience, to identify ways to improve responsiveness and support for young people across the systems of family justice and the intersection with care and youth justice systems.
  • We are bringing a long-term focus to this work of system change, working to explore with others what is working well, what needs to change and what is needed for that change to happen.
  • Working with Research in Practice we have commissioned an analysis of four local authorities’  existing data and evidence about the reasons for adolescents coming into proceedings and their trajectories during and post proceedings, alongside further new analysis of Cafcass administrative data by the Family Justice Data Partnership and Nuffield FJO researchers. We are also undertaking a  court files analysis in a local DFJ area covering nine local authorities.
  • We are undertaking a series of participatory events with young people, families, and communities focused on the unheard voices whose lives are affected by the family justice system, drawing on the insights, expertise, and ideas of young people, lived experience adults and a range of professionals.
  • Through this combined research approach of data and first-hand testimony we will be identifying key questions and practice insights to inform ideas about what a transformed system would look like which better supports future outcomes for young people.

Explore our research on young people and the family justice system

Featured
Externally reviewed
Resource

Young people | 2021

The health of older children and young people subject to care proceedings in Wales

This report provides an overview of the health and health service use of older children and young people (aged 10–17) involved in section 31 care proceedings in Wales. It is part of a series of work that aims to help build a better understanding of the reasons why older…

Resource type

Report

Region

Wales

Methodology

National administrative data
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Featured
Resource

Young people | 2021

Why are older children in care proceedings? A themed audit in four local authorities

This is the summary of a themed audit involving 73 children (aged 10-17) from 49 families who were the subject of care proceedings issued by four local authorities in England and Wales in 2019/20. It is part of a series of work that aims to help build a better…

Resource type

Report
Summary

Region

England
Wales

Methodology

Case file analysis
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View resource
Featured
Resource

Young people | 2021

Why are older children and young people in care proceedings? A case file review

Resource type

Report
Summary

Region

England

Methodology

Case file analysis
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View resource
Featured
Externally reviewed
Resource

Young people | 2021

Older children and young people in care proceedings in England and Wales

This summary highlights the main findings of the first in a series of reports about 10 to 17-year-olds in the family justice system in England and Wales. It provides the first national overview of older children and young people in care proceedings using administrative data held by Cafcass and…

Resource type

Report
Summary

Region

England
Wales

Methodology

National administrative data
View resource
View resource
Featured
Project

Young people | 2021

A focus on young people

We are bringing together existing and emerging evidence, combined with the insights of young people, professionals and experts by experience, to identify ways to improve support for young people across the family justice system and its intersections with the care and youth justice systems. By bringing a long-term focus to…

Type

Project

Region

England
Wales
View project
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Project

Young people | 2021 – 2021

‘Not about us, without us’: Older children and young people’s experiences of support and services

In recent years there has been growing recognition of the increasing number of older children and young people coming before the family courts, and the complexity and diversity of their experiences. This has raised concerns about the capability of support services in and around the child welfare system to…

Type

Project

Region

England
Wales
View project
View project
Externally reviewed
Resource

Newborn babies | Young people | 2021

Health vulnerabilities of parents in care proceedings in Wales

This summary highlights the main findings of a report that provides an overview of health-based vulnerabilities experienced by mothers and fathers of children aged 0–17 across a two-year period prior to their involvement in section 31 care proceedings in Wales. The report was written by the Family Justice Data…

Resource type

Report
Summary

Region

Wales

Methodology

National administrative data
View resource
View resource

Infographic

What do we know about children in the family justice system?

Our infographic pulls together what we know, and what we don’t know, about children’s journeys through the family justice system from national data.

Profile