COVID-19 resources

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Remote hearings in the family justice system: a rapid consultation

Nuffield Family Justice Observatory

The results of a rapid consultation with parents, carers and professionals in the family justice system across England and Wales on the use of remote hearings in the family courts, which have been widely adopted by UK courts facing the challenges of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The consultation had over 1,000 respondents, including Cafcass advisers and social workers Overall the respondents were evenly balanced in terms of their positive and negative reactions to remote hearings. Concerns raised related to the fairness and justice of remote hearings, issues relating to the technology and the impact of attending remote hearings on professionals' wellbeing. Respondents also provided examples of emerging good practice, and suggestions for future practice, which are included in the report. These largely related to the management of the process, such as the preparation and running of hearings and making the most effective use of technology.

Last updated on hub: 07 May 2020

Remote hearings in the family justice system: reflections and experiences. Follow-up consultation (September 2020)

Nuffield Family Justice Observatory

This report provides an overview of the findings of a follow up consultation on remote hearings in the family courts, undertaken between 10 and 30 September 2020. 1,306 respondents completed a survey, several organisations submitted additional information, and focus groups and interviews were undertaken with parents. Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the introduction of social distancing measures, the family courts in England and Wales rapidly adapted to using telephone and video hearings. Key findings include: most professionals who responded to the survey felt that things were working more smoothly but parents, other family members and organisations supporting parents were less positive about remote hearings – just under half said they had not understood what had happened during the hearing; professionals had concerns about whether proceedings were perceived as fair by parties in all cases and shared concerns about the difficulties of being sufficiently empathetic, supportive, and attuned to lay parties when conducting hearings remotely; there continue to be many technical problems encountered in most forms of remote hearing – most problems related to connectivity and common issues identified included difficulty in hearing people, difficulty seeing people, and difficulty identifying who is speaking.

Last updated on hub: 28 October 2020

Remote hearings in the family justice system: reflections and experiences. Online survey results (part of the follow-up consultation September 2020)

Nuffield Family Justice Observatory

Results of an online survey of views and experiences of remote hearings in the family court in England and Wales since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the introduction of social distancing measures. 1, 306 people (90% professionals and 10% parents or other relatives) responded to the survey, which was conducted between 10 and 30 September 2020. The survey forms part of a wider rapid consultation that incorporates information from other organisations, and the results of focus groups and interviews undertaken with parents. The graphs presented in this document are organised by: all respondents; professionals; parents and other relatives.

Last updated on hub: 28 October 2020

Remote justice – family court hearings during the pandemic

Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law

This case note discusses Re A (Children) (Remote Hearing: Care And Placement Orders) [2020] EWCA Civ 583 and other reported judgments involving decisions on remote hearings and those held partly in the courtroom and partly remotely, known as hybrid hearings. On 23 March 2020, the UK government announced a state-wide lockdown, restricting freedom of movement, as a response to the spread of the coronavirus and threat of COVID-19 overwhelming the National Health Service, closely followed on 25 March by the passing of the Coronavirus Act 2020. Consequently, hearings scheduled in court buildings across the country could no longer take place. However, a central principle of the Children Act 1989 is the avoidance of delay that is not in the child’s welfare. Building on the increasingly common use in family court hearings of some parties giving evidence by video link in certain circumstances, the possibility of an entire hearing being undertaken online had to be explored. A series of practice guidance documents on the use of remote and hybrid hearings was issued by the senior judiciary from 19 March onward. In Re A, the President of the Family Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane, set out explicit guidance to judges in England and Wales on decisions to be made about holding a hearing ‘remotely’, that is, through online participation instead of in the traditional court room. Re A was the first appeal in a case relating to the welfare of children to be heard by the Court of Appeal on the issue of remote hearings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last updated on hub: 11 September 2020

Remote mental health interventions for young people: a rapid review of the evidence

Youth Access

Summarises current evidence of the impact and implementation of remote interventions to support young people’s mental health. Remote interventions include any form of support that is not delivered in person (e.g. telephone or video calls, online chat messaging or forums, text messages or emails). The review focuses on remote support that is delivered by a counsellor, or other practitioner and does not cover app-based or computerised interventions. Very few robust evaluations of remote support were identified; however, those included in this review suggest it can lead to improvements in young people’s mental health and wellbeing. There were examples of how these interventions can allow services to work flexibly and adapt their ways of communication to fit the needs of the young person. However, the findings suggest that using remote interventions as a replacement for face-to-face support (as was necessary during the Covid-19 pandemic) is problematic. Remote interventions were typically described as ‘brief’ and practitioners often did not have time to identify action plans or goals. The report suggests that training around the strengths of remote support, and the experiences of young people may be helpful. This should also be included in undergraduate and entry level training for mental health practitioners.

Last updated on hub: 23 July 2020

Renewing neighbourhood democracy: creating powerful communities

Localis

This report looks at initiatives to increase the power of communities and strengthen neighbourhood-level democracy, to understand how initiatives to strengthen community power and control as a means of achieving a better functioning local democracy and political economy might work in practice. An area of particular interest is post-pandemic reform to local governance structures in England, embodied in the forthcoming Local Recovery and Devolution White Paper, and how these reforms can open up space for greater community power. Its methodology is a combination of qualitative research – case studies, interviews and surveys – and critical analysis of how community empowerment has been approached nationwide. At its core, this report seeks to understand the current state of community empowerment in the UK and what changes should be made to ensure that the state – both local and central – can best support all communities to prosper and thrive. In conclusion, the report prescribes some immediate policy approaches that could facilitate community empowerment and some more general principles to take forward in both national and local government. From the studies, some key principles for creating powerful communities can be drawn: a relational approach to governance; strong networking and communication systems; dedication to building capacity; work rooted in listening to communities; and a willingness to cede some power and control and a culture that is engaged and facilitative.

Last updated on hub: 18 November 2020

Report 01: findings from the first 1500 participants on parent/carer stress and child activity

Emerging Minds

This report is based upon the data from the first 1,500 parents and carers who have taken part in an online survey tracking the mental health of school-aged children and young people aged 4-16 years throughout the COVID-19 crisis. These participants completed the survey during a 6-day period, between Monday 30th March and Saturday 4th April – for most young people, this will have been the last week of the school term prior to the Easter holiday. The report focuses on the parent and carer stress and how children and young people are reported to spend their time. The report indicates that the top three stressors for parents and carers were work, their children’s wellbeing, and their family and friends (outside their household); early two third of parents and carers reported that they were not sufficiently meeting the needs of both work and their child; just over half the children and young people completed 2 or more hours of schoolwork per day; nearly three quarter of children and young people are keeping in contact with friends via video chat; and round three quarter of children and young people are getting more than 30 minutes of exercise per day.

Last updated on hub: 01 July 2020

Report 02: Covid-19 worries, parent/carer stress and support needs, by child special educational needs and parent/carer work status

Emerging Minds

This report provides cross-sectional data from the approximately 5,000 parents and carers who, between 30/03/20 and 29/04/20, have taken part in an online survey tracking the mental health of school-aged children and young people aged 4-16 years throughout the COVID-19 crisis. The report focuses on the following outcomes: parent and carer reported child worries related to COVID-19; parent and carer sources of stress; support and disruptions; parent and carer need for support; and parent and carer preference for the medium of delivery of support. The report reveals that nearly half the parents/carers thought that their child was concerned about family and friends catching the virus; around a third of parents/carers reported that their child was worried about missing school; work is the most frequent source of stress for parents, followed by their child’s emotional wellbeing; parents of children with special educational needs and neurodevelopmental disorders (SEN/ND) report higher levels of stress across all areas; while child behaviour is rarely a stressor for parents of non-SEN/ND children, it was frequently a stressor for parents of children with SEN/ND; 4 in 5 of those who were previously receiving support from services have had this stopped or postponed during the pandemic; parents particularly want support around their child’s emotional wellbeing, education and coming out of social isolation; parents of children with SEN/ND would also like support around managing their child’s behaviour; and parents and carers would value online written materials and videos, while parents with children with SEN/ND would also like online support from professionals.

Last updated on hub: 01 July 2020

Report 03: parents/carers report on their own and their children’s concerns about children attending school

Emerging Minds

This report provides cross-sectional data from approximately 611 parents and carers who have taken part in an online survey tracking the mental health of school-aged children and young people aged 4-16 years throughout the COVID-19 crisis. It focuses specifically on concerns around children and young people attending school during the Covid-19 pandemic. The findings show that parents of children with SEN/ND are particularly uncomfortable about their children attending school, as are parents who do not work, and those with lower incomes. Particular concerns for parents of children with SEN/ND are that their child will not get the emotional, behavioural and educational support that they need, or the support they need with transitions to different groups/classes. Parents of children with SEN/ND or a pre-existing mental health difficulty report that their children are particularly concerned about things being uncertain or different, changes to routine, the enjoyable parts of school not happening, and being away from home.

Last updated on hub: 01 July 2020

Report 04: changes in children and young people’s emotional and behavioural difficulties through lockdown

University of Oxford

This report provides longitudinal data from 2,890 parents and carers who took part in both a baseline and follow up questionnaires tracking the mental health of school-aged children and young people aged 4-16 years throughout the COVID-19 crisis. The report examines changes in parent and carer and adolescent self-reported emotional, behavioural and restless and attentional difficulties over a one-month period as lockdown has progressed. It shows that over a one-month period in lockdown parents and carers of primary school age children report an increase in their child’s emotional, behavioural, and restless and attentional difficulties; parents and carers of secondary school age children report a reduction in their child’s emotional difficulties, but an increase in restless and attentional behaviours; adolescents report no change in their own emotional or behavioural, and restless and attentional difficulties; parents and carers of children with SEN and those with a pre-existing mental health difficulty report a reduction in their child’s emotional difficulties and no change in behavioural or restless and attentional difficulties; parents and carers of high-income households report an increase in their child’s behavioural difficulties.

Last updated on hub: 30 June 2020

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