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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 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.
  • Our 2021 report provided the first national overview of older children and young people in care proceedings using administrative data held by Cafcass and Cafcass Cymru revealing that the number of 10-17-year-olds subject to care proceedings rose by 95 per cent between 2011/12 and 2019/20.
  • Working with Research in Practice we 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.We also undertook a court file analysis with the East London Family Court.
  • 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

Resource

Young people | 2022

How can we better meet the needs of young people in care? Ideas from professionals, academics and people with lived experience. Films and briefing paper.

This briefing paper introduces and provides an overview of the main themes emerging from a series of 12 films about meeting the needs of older children and young people in the family justice system.   

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Young people | 2022

The care files: Exploring the experiences of teenagers entering the care system

We are particularly indebted to the children and young people for sharing their stories and reflecting on what were often traumatic, disruptive, and tumultuous times in their lives. We would also like to express our sincere gratitude to the social workers, support workers, personal advisors (PAs), and other facilitators who…

Resource type

Summary

Methodology

Consultation
Qualitative
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Resource

Young people | 2022

Deprivation of liberty: A review of published judgments

This summary highlights the key themes and issues identified in 31 judgments, published between 2014 and 2021, relating to applications to the family court to authorise the deprivation of liberty of a child in a secure children’s home under section 25 (s.25) of the Children Act 1989 (and section…

Resource type

Report
Summary

Methodology

Evidence review
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Externally reviewed
Resource

Young people | 2022

What do we know about children and young people deprived of their liberty in England and Wales? An evidence review

This report summarises what we know about children and young people deprived of their liberty across welfare, youth justice and mental health settings in England and Wales from national administrative data and recent research studies. Drawing on national administrative data and research from the past 10 years, this report aims…

Methodology

Evidence review
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Externally reviewed
Resource

Young people | 2022

Children subject to secure accommodation orders: A data review

Increasing concern has been raised about the small but highly vulnerable group of children and young people deprived of their liberty in various settings in England and Wales, including in secure children’s homes, and the lack of information available about these children. This study explores trends in the volume, characteristics…

Methodology

National administrative data
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Resource

Young people | 2022

Deprivation of liberty: Legal reflections and mechanisms. Briefing

Increasing concern has been raised about a small but highly vulnerable number of children and young people who are deprived of their liberty in various settings in England and Wales – including in secure children’s homes – and the lack of information available about them. There are many circumstances where…

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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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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