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The Justice Minister, Simon Hughes, announced last week that children aged 10 or over are to be given a greater chance to be heard within care proceedings about their future. The Liberal Democrat Minister has 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.”
This announcement can only be welcomed. Any opportunity which allows children at the centre of care proceedings to voice their views and feelings can only be a positive step forward. Care proceedings are deeply distressing for all those involved, especially for the young and often vulnerable children. It is of great importance for the emotional wellbeing of the children involved, to allow them to feel they are part of the decision making process, rather than simply the subject matter.
Our experienced team of children's lawyers/solicitors prioritise that the child's views are heard if every case which they are appointed. It is vitally important that each child feels their own solicitor is not compromised by the views of others. They want to feel that someone is "on their side and really listening" . Our team frequently have experience of children feeling that others have not prioritised their views and who feel a huge amount of relief and assurance that a member of our team has arrived to place their voice in the centre of the proceedings, which is where is should be.