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Government backs family law initiatives with cash

Resolution granted funding extension to support families impacted by loss of legal aid

11 March 2015

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Two pioneering pilot family law schemes, which fill the gap left by reforms to legal aid, have been granted funding extensions to continue their services.

Family Matters, which is funded by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Innovation Fund, supports families struggling with separation in Newcastle, Crewe, and Oxford. Since 2013, the service has helped more than 1,000 people.

The service is free where one parent is receiving a benefit or is earning less than the living wage.

Commenting on the news, Resolution's project manager, Jane Wilson, said: 'The loss of family legal aid has had a huge impact on the communities we work with and for many of the people we help, Family Matters is the only initial support they can access to help them through their separation. The numbers of people that we've seen shows that there is a real need for this type of service for families.'

She continued: 'This welcome extra funding will enable us to see an additional 478 parents. Our next goal will be to find a way to continue the service beyond September 2015, so that yet more families can be given this crucial support.'

In addition, the At-Court Mediation project, run by National Family Mediation (NFM), has been given a further six months of government funding.

Announcing the extension, Steve Webb, the government minister responsible for child maintenance, said: 'Family breakdown can be difficult for everyone involved, but the evidence shows that children stand a much better chance of getting on in life when their parents are working together.'

He added that the extra funding will allow the project to continue its excellent work by helping parents to put aside their differences for their children's sake.

'We are starting to see some very encouraging results from these projects which will be invaluable when it comes to designing future services and are proving priceless for the families being helped,' he said.

The project currently operates in three pilot areas - Herefordshire, Berkshire, and West Yorkshire - providing one-to-one support to reduce conflict between couples.

'The results are impressive and encouraging,' said Jane Robey, NFM's chief executive. 'So far 300 families have been helped by this project, and three quarters of them report a reduction in conflict and stress, and an increase in positive communication.

'The interests of children and young people are easily forgotten in the heat of a protracted court room battle. This project is helping parents seriously consider how they communicate with and react to each other and, crucially, the impact all this has on their children.'

John van der Luit-Drummond is legal reporter for Solicitors Journal

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