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App, words and pictures help give children a voice

Children will express their opinion to judges hearing them, reports Catherine Baksi

19 February 2015

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Children involved in family cases will be able to draw pictures and write letters to tell judges how they feel, in moves announced today to ensure their voices are heard in court.

A gaming app designed by Cafcass, together with other paper guides, will help the 90,000 children involved in family cases each year to understand the court process in which they are involved.

Justice minister Simon Hughes said today that all children from the age of ten who are involved in family proceedings will be able to express their views about their case to the judge hearing them, including through pictures and letters.

The plans are expected to complement reforms to guidance on judges seeing children, which are being considered by a judge-led working group set up by the president of the Family Division, Sir James Munby.

Hughes also said that out of court dispute resolution services, such as family mediation, should be more 'child inclusive'.

Addressing the Family Justice Young People's Board (FJYPB), Hughes said: "For too long, children and young people have struggled to have their voices heard during the family court process. Although they are often at the centre of proceedings, the views of children and how they feel are often not heard, with other people making vital decisions for them."

He added: "Young people are some of the most vulnerable in society, and it is vitally important that we make sure they are at the heart of the family justice system."

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