Report to Greater Manchester Local Family Justice Board on work with the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory

This report provides a summary of stakeholder activity between the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory development team and the Greater Manchester Local Family Justice Board (LFJB). This pilot will help to inform how the Nuffield FJO works with LFJB. With a focus on good practice and areas for improvement, this report will be useful reading for other LFJBs and associated practitioners working in England and Wales. 

The research team found the Greater Manchester LFJB to be active, well attended, with a clear plan of action and support from the work of active sub-groups. It keeps a close focus on the narrow performance issues relevant to the key performance indicators but encourages a wider focus as well. There are good relationships, discussion and challenge between senior managers in the local authorities, CAFCASS and the Judiciary. 

This does not mean that problems in the Greater Manchester area are less than in other areas – numbers of proceedings have risen significantly over the last two years, urgent applications have risen, there is varying practice in relation to pre-proceedings - but it does mean there is a proactive, problem solving approach to responding to the serious pressures under which both the courts and children’s services departments currently working. There is also recognition of what still needs to be tackled to improve practice and discussion and thinking about how best to this. The size of the Greater Manchester area and the numbers of stakeholders involved does, however, pose big challenges in relation to communication and achieving consistency of approach.

The report indicates that a challenge in working with local areas will be the fact that stakeholders are struggling with the impact of rising numbers of cases and funding crises in both the Local Authorities and the courts. This does impact on people’s ability to engage with new initiatives. The Nuffield FJO needs to be able to show that what it provides in terms of research information is seen as easy to access and is useful.

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