Former Labour Portfolio Holder switches to Tories and admits transformation of education was passionately driven Gove

Posted July 26, 2014

The Grimsby Telgraph reports today that the Former Labour Porfolio for Children’s Services Ian Lindley has made a shock switch to the Conservatives after he was not selected by the party to contest the local election in June.

The newspaper reports:

Although he said that had been a factor in his decision, he also cited a lack of unity and professionalism among Labour councillors and an unwillingness to address local issues in full council meetings as reasons for quitting the party.

Mr Lindley, who represented the West Marsh ward between 2010 and May this year, said he also strongly opposed Labour’s decision to choose its parliamentary candidate for Great Grimsby from an all-women shortlist.

He added that in the two wards he had wished to contest at the last election, he had been overlooked in favour of a female candidate.

Mr Lindley, who is expected to stand as a candidate in next year’s local election, said he had enjoyed a good working relationship with all Conservative councillors during his recent term of office.

He added that he would be able to vote more freely, in contrast to Labour, where he said the whip was frequently applied.

He also expressed his overwhelming support for a new Local Plan for North East Lincolnshire, which he claimed did not appear to be a Labour priority.

Mr Lindley said: “I believe I still have a huge amount to offer in local politics, and I firmly believe that my future lies firmly with the Conservatives.

“As a former cabinet member and portfolio holder for children’s services I remain passionate about services for our children and young people.

“I have gained significant experience in knowledge and legislation around safeguarding and looked-after children, as well as a good understanding on the delivery of youth services.

“This knowledge will prove invaluable when holding other political parties to account who may support financial cuts which could undermine theses services. I continue to have a huge interest in our education system, where I am currently a governor at two primary schools and a college of further and higher education.

“I believe my input locally in our education services will continue to support the transformation of our education services, which has been driven so passionately by Michael Gove.”

The deicions appears to be at odds with some of Councillor Lindley’s earlier believes on education policy – particularly the Pupil Premium.

At a Full Council Meeting held on 15th December, 2011 – I asked the Councillor Lindley:

“At the meeting (Children and Young People Scrutiny Panel held 3rd December) the Panel queried the percentages of total take up and the free school meals element. Officers agreed to respond to this outside the meeting. Can the Portfolio Holder, therefore tell me what action the officers are taking to increase Free School Meals?”

Councillor Ian Lindley the Portfolio Holder for People Services (Labour) replied by saying: “Officers are presently working on this and I will write to Councillor Beasant with a reply.”

In response, I rose again, “Madam Mayor, it’s now several weeks since the meeting and bearing in mind that this week we have had the announcement to widen the Pupil Premium – it’s is now imperative that we increase Free School Meal take-up; OR does the Portfolio Holder just agree with Manchester City Council, Labour Councillors who say that the Pupil Premium is a SHAM?”

Councillor Ian Lindley in response replied: “I suppose I would have to agree with Manchester City Council, Labour Councillors.”

Perhaps he believes that the most popular of the Coalition’s policies – the Pupil is just sham and instead is a secret admirer of ALL Grove’s right-wing education policies that are breaking up our treasured state run education system.

Ukip councillor says ‘Poor, badly educated people are fat because they like it’

Posted July 26, 2014

The outspoken UKIP Councillor who apologised after saying that children in care were “were takers from the system”; is again in hot water.

The Cambridge News reports:

Gordon Gillick triggered fresh outrage by claiming obese and poorly educated people were “very content” to be a “burden on the state”.

The UKIP member of Cambridgeshire County Council was branded a “fool” for the remarks made as he questioned whether the authority could effectively tackle poverty.

Cllr Gillick told a council: “You can do all you wish, it’s the attitude.

“The people we describe as obese, thick, badly educated, whichever way you like to phrase it, they’re very, very content.

“They enjoy being 25 stone, they’re not discontent, they’re just a burden on the state.”

Members were debating a motion from leader Cllr Steve Count calling for the authority to focus spending on its poorest neighbourhoods, such as those in King’s Hedges and in Fenland, as resources dry up.

Cllr Gillick, who represents Waldersey, welcomed the initiative but warned there were many people, particularly in Fenland, who “despised the state” and “despised the law”.

Many decent jobs had gone to Eastern Europeans who worked for significantly lower wages, he claimed, adding that British workers were not prepared to “live in their car or 14 to a house”.

Cllr Gillick said: “That’s the situation as it is, you can’t solve that, we can’t solve that, by having little schemes and little visitors going around.

“It’s so profound and it’s so nationwide that you’re up against it…”

At the meeting, Liberal Democrat Cllr Ian Manning branded Cllr Gillick’s latest outburst “disgusting”.

The East Chesterton member told Cllr Gillick: “With a speech like that, you are a fool.

“Demonising people on benefits, saying people on benefits want to be there, is a complete misunderstanding of how horrible it is to live a life dependant upon the state.”

Members unanimously approved Cllr Count’s motion, which asked committees to select key issues associated with deprivation and set measurable targets for improvement.

Let’s help prevent ‘antibiotics resistance’ in North and North East Lincolnshire

Posted July 26, 2014

North Lincolnshire (NL) and North East Lincolnshire (NEL) Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) want to raise awareness of ‘antibiotic resistance’ to help people understand how they can play a part in ensuring antibiotics remain a valuable resource for everyone.

Antibiotics are important medicines used to treat many infections caused by bacteria and can prevent patients suffering serious illnesses. However, bacteria can adapt and find ways to survive the effects of an antibiotic and become ‘antibiotic resistant’, meaning that the antibiotic no longer works. The more often we use antibiotics, the more likely it is that bacteria will become resistant to it. New antibiotics may not always be found to replace them. 

Both CCGs are urging that you let common illnesses such as coughs, colds and sore throats get better by themselves and to ensure that you only use antibiotics when it’s appropriate to do so. Often minor infections will improve in the same length of time whether an antibiotic has been taken or not. Where they are prescribed, the complete course should be taken in order to get rid of the bacteria completely. If the course is not completed some bacteria may be left, and they too may develop resistance. Always speak to your doctor or pharmacist if you have any concerns.

Dr Andrew Stead, GP and Clinical Lead at NEL CCG said:

“Antibiotics do not work against infections caused by viruses, such as the common cold and the prescription of antibiotics to this type of virus will have no effect on the body. By using antibiotics less often, we can slow down the development of resistance. Antibiotics will only be issued when there is a clinical need”.

Dr Richard Falk, Area Prescribing Committee (APC) Chairman and Prescribing Lead for North Lincolnshire CCG added:

“Pharmacists are able to help with many self-limiting conditions such as sore throats and a cough. A trip to the doctor’s surgery isn’t always the correct first port of call”.

For more information please visit: http://www.nhs.uk/nhsengland/arc/pages/whatareantibiotics.aspx

An update on what Ed Davey’s been up to

Posted July 26, 2014

I write this while on a visit to India. A few weeks ago I was in the US, and I’ve just left China. Why? These three countries are the world’s biggest emitters and the series of meetings I’m having all focus on paving the way for a global climate change deal next year. In the UK, and with our partners across the EU we are gaining momentum for an ambitious deal, which I hope will result in a domestic EU target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030. But, the EU acting alone will not be enough – we need to take the rest of the world with us.

Back in the UK I’ve just announced two significant wins for Lib Dems in government, the first of which is very much about reducing emissions and tackling climate change. I have confirmed the 4th Carbon Budget will remain unchanged. This Budget sets out emissions caps for 2023-2027 and my predecessor Chris Huhne agreed that a review into the 4th Carbon Budget should be conducted to ensure the UK would not be out of kilter with the ambition – or lack of – of our European neighbours. The findings of my review are consistent with those of the Committee on Climate Change – the evidence showed that no change was required. We will not cut our climate change ambition.

Why is this an important victory? It’s common knowledge that keeping the Carbon Budget unchanged hasn’t been a view shared across the whole of government. Yet for the Liberal Democrats, Green NGOs, many businesses and investors, it’s been a priority.  Keeping the cap unchanged sends a clear message that we will stick with our ambition to tackle climate change as we look to bolster support for a global deal. It’s been good to see my announcement welcomed by many of the Green NGOs including Greenpeace, WWF, and Friends of the Earth, alongside the CBI and many others.

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I have also published details on how we intend to tackle fuel poverty in the long-term. While fuel poverty has fallen every year since 2010, there is of course more to do. The new definition of fuel poverty allows us to effectively target the fuel poor as it focuses on households with low incomes and high costs. Let’s not forget that under Labour their definition of fuel poverty was so off the mark that the Queen was said to be fuel poor!

The new proposals focus on driving up the energy efficiency of people’s homes and getting as many of them as we can up to an energy efficiency level of ‘Band C’ by 2030. But given far too many people live in Band G & F homes, this will not be easy. This will be bolstered by interim targets to again get as many as we can to Band E by 2020, and D by 2025. Again, it’s good to see the general welcome that these proposals have received from bodies including the Fuel Poverty Advisory Group.

Alongside this we’ve proposed that from 2018 landlords will only be able to rent out properties meeting certain energy efficiency standards and that tenants have a right to request energy efficiency improvements from 2016.

So, when people ask you on the doorsteps what Lib Dems in Government have delivered, add tackling climate change and tackling fuel poverty to your list, which if you read my last post should already include delivering on green energy and green jobs.

Ed Davey, Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change & MP for Kingston & Surbiton.

More commuters are using Europarc bus service

Posted July 26, 2014

Passenger numbers on bus services to and from a North East Lincolnshire business park have risen sharply over the past year, according to the latest figures.

The number of people using the 1, 2 and 20 bus service to Europarc increased by 29.27 per cent between the 2012/13 financial year to 2013/14.

North East Lincolnshire Council agreed a contract with Stagecoach earlier this year that will keep the service running for at least the next two years.

And a new Saturday service from the town centre to Europarc via Lord Street and Gilbey Road started running on 31 May.

Dave Skepper, commercial director Stagecoach East Midlands, said:

“We are pleased to have recently renewed our partnership with North East Lincolnshire Council to run the weekday bus service between Grimsby and Europarc via West Marsh, which has proved to be extremely popular with local people.

“We regularly meet with North East Lincolnshire Council through our Bus Quality Partnership to consider future plans for bus services and following feedback from local residents using the West Marsh bus services we are delighted to confirm that we have been able to agree terms to offer a Saturday timetable on the route, which started running from 31 May 2014.”

Ivan Hinchliffe, Europarc travel coordinator from IH Consultants Ltd, said:

“This is encouraging news and further evidence of the success of the Europarc Sustainable Travel Initiative.

“Site developer Wykeland Properties Ltd is committed to sustainable development and has funded the post of Europarc Travel Coordinator since they launched the Initiative in 2007.

“I work closely with North East Lincolnshire Council and their operational partners Cofely whose support is a key factor in the success of the initiative.

“I have also undertaken a number of travel surveys since 2007 and the results clearly show that an increasing number of people who work at Europarc are also car sharing and cycling to work.

“This is important not just for the environment but in attracting new employers, especially those looking for sites such as Europarc which offer a wide range of travel options for their workforce.”

Girl Summit 2014 – putting a stop to FGM, forced marriage and child marriage… writes Simon Hughes

Posted July 26, 2014

The following article was written by the Liberal Democrat MP for Bermondsey and Southwark Simon Hughes and published on 23rd July on his website.

I was thrilled to welcome the first ever Girl Summit at a local school, Walworth Academy, in Bermondsey and Old Southwark.

The Girl Summit is a big part of the campaign to put a stop to the abhorrent practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), forced marriage and child marriage – and the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Home Secretary and International Development Secretary were all present to speak.

Unicef co-hosted the event at Walworth Academy, which attracted delegates from over 50 countries.

The issues discussed do not just affect women and girls overseas, they have a very real impact here in Walworth, Bermondsey and Old Southwark, and the rest of London and the UK. That is why I am 100% behind my Liberal Democrat ministerial colleagues Nick Clegg, Lynne Featherstone and Norman Baker who have led Liberal Democrat efforts within government to help bring these issues to people’s attention. The UK Government is the world’s largest donor to the anti-FGM cause, donating £35 million, and it has been Liberal Democrats leading the charge.

It is shocking to think that there are an estimated 137,000 girls and women in England and Wales who are living with the consequences of female genital mutilation. I am proud that as a government we are taking a stand, and incredibly proud that so many people gathered in East Walworth in my constituency to do so.

For more information on what the government are doing to tackle these issues, please click here.

To sign our Liberal Democrat campaign to end FGM within a generation, please click here.

Vince Cable: We are on track to eliminate the deficit in 2017/18

Posted July 25, 2014

Vince Cable writes about the good news regarding the rise in Britain’s economy:

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At some point over the last month or so, we passed, without fanfare, one of the most important economic milestones of the last six years – the UK economy is now bigger than it was before the recession began in 2008. Today’s GDP figures are the official confirmation that we have now returned to pre-recession levels.

It has taken six years of hard work by British businesses and workers to recalibrate our economy. The recession was deep and the effects were felt throughout the UK, not least here in the South West, where the local economy, rather than growing shrank by 2.2% between 2008 and 2009.

But it is also a source of encouragement. It is a reminder of how far we have come since the depths of the recession in 2009. Growth is up, investment is up, business is innovating more and unemployment is now at its lowest level for five years. In particular, a revival in private business is underpinning the UK’s recovery and creating jobs – over a million new jobs in the last year alone.

The South West is no exception. More than 77,000 jobs were created here between March 2012 and March 2014, showing the resilience and promise of the region.

The coalition government was formed to tackle an economic emergency. In 2010, the Government faced an enormous deficit as a result of a collapse of Government reserve after the failure of the banks, under the last Labour Government. Although there is much still to do, we are on track to eliminate the deficit in 2017/18. This has required painful and difficult choices to be made.  But the country is now in a much safer position.

But deficit reduction alone was never going to be enough. That is why my Department has been working on a long-term plan to support companies growing and investing, job creation, and training our future workforce, from apprentices to PhD scientists.

At the heart of this has been a new industrial strategy for the UK which my party the Liberal Democrats has championed across government, building a stronger economy and a fairer society. Industrial strategy is a long term partnership between government and business, which attempts to work beyond the usual short term political timetables. We want to make sure that the UK is able to earn a living through our world beating industries such as cars in the Midlands or the oil and gas supply chain in Scotland, or marine industries in the South West. We aim to show that the UK is the right place to set up companies, invest and create long term jobs.

We are also working to ensure that the workforce is ready to take the new opportunities being created as the economy recovers. Almost two million new apprenticeships have been started since we came to office in 2010 and we are investing in colleges like Bournemouth and Poole College, to ensure everyone has access to the skills they need to succeed in the world of work, vocational and academic alike.

But there is more to do. Our recovery needs to be better balanced. Growth needs to be sustainable and we need every part of the UK to be firing on all cylinders, including the South West. We cannot risk a repetition of the disastrous growth paths of the past when it depended on consumption financed by growing personal debt, depending in turn on inflated house prices. The emphasis must be on exports, investment and new technologies.

We must stop small and medium sized businesses being suffocated by the lack of bank credit. I speak to companies with world-beating ideas, including in Weymouth, Christchurch or Gillingham, which cannot get the financial backing they need to seize the opportunities offered to them. So two years ago I launched a new British Business Bank to open up new avenues of finance for business who are struggling to get anything from the high street banks. We are also investing in British supply chains through the Regional Growth Fund. And we are promoting new green technology through the Green Investment Bank which my party has long championed and which we set up at the start of this government.

We also need to ensure that the UK can pay its way in the world economy, by boosting the exports of goods and services and bringing back production that went overseas over the past decades. As a country we still import far more than we export. Helping firms in Dorchester, Bournemouth and Poole to navigate new markets in China, South America or India is at the heart of our strategy.

Finally, the Liberal Democrats in Government are making sure that the economic recovery benefits everyone in the form of improved take home pay. Despite the effect of the economic crisis on living standards, the Liberal Democrats have cushioned the impact by lifting 2.7 million people out of income tax all together and given a £700 tax cut to more than 20 million people. So far in the South West, wages have only grown by 0.1% in the last year. Until this picture changes, we will not tire in our efforts to raise productivity, to ensure people have the skills and the opportunities to succeed in the world of work, and to expect their incomes to grow as a result.

Britain has world beating scientists and while we have protected science investment, we recognize that in the past, Britain has not been as good as competitors like Germany in turning ideas into wealth creation. So we are investing in advanced technology centres which help commercialise cutting edge innovations in sectors like cell therapy, aerospace or advanced manufacturing.

The recovery is in full swing. The challenge now is to ensure that the good news story is one about every part of the UK and is sustained over the long term.

Simon Hughes’ speech at the Voice of the Child conference

Posted July 25, 2014

Simon Hughes speech to the Family Justice Young People’s Board ‘Voice of the Child’ conference.

On Tuesday this week, I was privileged to attend the Girl Summit at Walworth Academy just off the Old Kent Road in my constituency in south London. This was a hugely impressive and powerful event with the key message that women and girls are not somebody else’s property to be physically interfered with, or to be given or sold to others against their own free will even before an age at which they can make their own decisions.

As well as our own Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, Home Secretary and International Development Secretary there were women who had been made to enter into child or forced marriage or other forms of cultural practice. We were joined by the Head of the United Nations Children’s Fund, Prime Ministers, First Ladies and members of royal families from across the globe.

Malala Yousafzai spoke very powerfully and impressively about her recent visit to Nigeria and her attempt to persuade people in that country of conflict to treat girls and young women with a new form of respect whatever their faith or belief or family background.

This event set an agenda to take forward work in every country of the world to advance the rights of women, children and young people.

Last night in Glasgow, many of you will have seen the opening of the 20th Commonwealth Games by Her Majesty the Queen. The Commonwealth is made up of 71 countries and territories across the world, and the Friendly Games as they are affectionately known give opportunities for athletes from all of them to compete and show how their talent, training and discipline, can lead them to international success.

But in many Commonwealth countries even now the rights of children and young people are not upheld without discrimination. In some countries, there is prejudice and discrimination against women and girls. In some countries, holding a particular faith or belief can give you a very hard time. In some countries, your sexuality or a failure by you or your family to comply with cultural norms may lead to your exclusion or vilification or worse.

This may all seem, in some ways, slightly far away from our agenda today. But in others, it’s not far away at all. We too are here to talk about rights and justice for children and young people. And our special concern is family justice – and family justice in our countries of England and Wales.

I want to talk personally for a moment. My dad was married twice and his first marriage ended in divorce. My two older half-brothers Richard and David saw their parents’ marriage end before they were 12 years old. One of my half brothers then went through a divorce himself after his first wife left him- and left him with the care of three young children. I was not alive during the first of these events but very well remember the second, and my brother’s separation and divorce were difficult enough for the rest of the family, let alone for his three children. There are probably very few people in the room who do not have members of our immediate or extended families who have gone through divorce or separation or other form of family break up.

I was appointed to my job as Minister of State for Justice and Civil Liberties last December. This is my first chance to talk to the Voice of the Child conference, and so today I want to take the opportunity of making an important statement as to the direction in which I believe our family justice system must move if we are to fully uphold the rights of children and young people in our families, our justice system, our society and our countries in the years ahead.

The law is clear, both at home in the Children Act 1989 and internationally in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, about the importance of the child or young person’s wishes in any justice proceedings.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) sets out the rights of every person under 18 and how those rights should be met. The government is committed to giving due consideration to the UNCRC when developing new policy and legislation. In Wales there is a new Children’s Rights Scheme which requires all ministers in Wales to have due regard to the Convention when carrying out any of their ministerial functions.

This is the area where you in the Family Justice Young People’s Board have been doing much recent work. I pay tribute to you for all that you do. As you will report to this Conference later you have been working on a National Charter for Child Inclusive Family Justice. I know that this work is not yet finished and the proposed Charter is not yet in its final version, but I want to say now that the government agrees with, accepts and intends for some of the statements in your most recent short version of the Charter to be confirmed as government policy from now on.

Children and young people should be at the centre of all proceedings. We agree.

Children and young people should be informed of their rights. We agree.

And we in government agree with much which follows in the Charter which you are working on:

Children and young people should be given the opportunity to meet and communicate with the professionals involved with their case including workers from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass), social workers, the judges and legal representatives; every child of sufficient age and ability should have the opportunity of meeting with the judge overseeing their case; every child should have the opportunity through Cafcass of submitting their views directly to the judge in writing; all children should be able to communicate their wishes and feelings to the judge; children and young people should be kept informed about the court proceedings in an age appropriate manner, kept informed of the stage their case has reached, and contacted prior to the first hearing, and have the opportunity of giving feedback through email, text, telephone or written form.

We agree with all these statements too.

Children and young people must by law have their views heard before decisions are made about their future, and where decisions are made that will impact them. At the moment, it is still too often that their views are not heard. Or that the law is interpreted to mean that others can make a assumption about the view of the child or young person – often for the best of intentions and acting in their interest, but nevertheless with the outcome that the child or young person does not feel that their own distinct voice was heard.

I therefore want to announce that it is the intention of the Ministry of Justice, and therefore the government, that we move as soon as is practical to apply in all our family justice proceedings in England and Wales where children and young people are concerned the policy that it will be the normal practice, the norm, that, from the age of 10, children and young people involved in public or private law family justice proceedings before the courts will have access to the judge, in an appropriate way which reflects their feelings and wishes to make clear their views as to what is the best resolution of the family dispute in their interest. Children and young people of 10 and over will therefore be given the chance to make clear their views in person or if preferred in another way. We will also work with the mediation sector to arrive at a position where children and young people of 10 years old and over have appropriate access to mediators too in cases which affect them.

Why 10? It seems to me wrong that a 10 year old in England and Wales is deemed old enough to be criminally responsible yet has no automatic voice in family proceedings in which decisions are being made about them. Children and young people should be involved and be seen to be involved. And if a child younger than 10 years is able to express themselves and wishes to do so then they too should have that opportunity. Though of course we must also recognise that where a child or young person is too vulnerable and needs their views to be represented by others, this also should be the case.

Of course how we move from the present court practice to one which implements this change will need careful discussion with all those with proper interests, including the President of the Family Division, Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) and Cafcass. I have of course already shared my intentions with them, and am pleased that we all are committed to moving together in the same direction. We have of course more careful and detailed work to do, particularly in relation to those processes which are not court processes but which are dispute resolution processes such as mediation outside of the courts.

That is why I propose to start immediately a dialogue with the family mediation profession about how we make sure that the voice of the child and young person becomes a central part of the process of family mediation too. It cannot be right that parents can mediate an agreement affecting their child or children and then ask the court to consider making this into a binding order in the absence of the children’s voice being heard.

I have talked through my proposals with the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State and we are clear that this is the right course to take and the right time to take it. I hope that I am really clear that in future we are not just going to say that the voice of the child and young person will be heard. In whatever are appropriate ways, we are going to make sure this happens. I hope this announcement will be widely welcomed amongst the members of the Young People’s Board, all those other young people involved in these debates and many others besides.

I have had the privilege of meeting members of your young people’s board on several occasions over the last few months and applaud your commitment, enthusiasm and sense of purpose. I am keen to build on the positive relationships which have been forged between the Ministry and your board and to help you take forward the various strands of your work wherever we can be of help.

I have offered the services of the Ministry of Justice to help with the board’s work in areas such as communication and am encouraging closer interaction between the board and my officials in Family Justice, introducing board members to policy officials, encouraging them to explore how policy is formulated within family justice and how the views of children and young people are reflected in developing proposals for change.

The Board’s most significant piece of work this year is clearly the National Charter for Child Inclusive Family Justice which was launched as the Family Justice Young People’s Board Standards at last year’s conference, and which I have already referred to.

The National Charter grew from recommendation three of the Family Justice review and it shows how valued the young people’s board are that they were asked to take forward this work.

I hope that the work on the Charter will come to a conclusion by the end of the year at the latest with all the various organisations and professions signed up to the Charter and working in accordance with its principles.

Outside your work on the Charter, the young people’s board are constantly increasing their area of influence and expertise as shown by the recent expansion of visits to evaluate the facilities available at court and at child contact centres. I know that the President of the Family Division is supportive of this and other work to help to make sure that the views of children and young people are reflected back into all parts of our family justice system.

I know that a number of you here have had direct experience of working with the young people’s board and are as aware as I am that their work is gaining respect and influence across the family justice system. As the Board has grown and gained recognition many organisations have begun commissioning them to undertake work on their behalf; often for the help and advice they can offer in how children and young people can have access to information (in a way they can understand) about the processes and people they will encounter in the family justice system.

This is the unique contribution which the Young People’s Board offers – to help us shape the family justice system of the future. The chance to learn and improve the system based on the experiences of those who have experienced it first hand cannot be overestimated.

Children and young people who have been through the courts are clearly experts in this field. You above all will understand what it is like to be to be that child, at the centre of that court case, which has been going on for two, three or four years. But it is at the moment less clear how children and young people are involved in other processes, such as family mediation. That is why I have announced the policy of involvement in the future in mediation and other out of court processes too.

The Young People’s Board therefore has a key role to play in making sure the family justice system is not only focused on children and young people but better supports children and young people who through no fault of their own find themselves involved in our justice system often at a very early age.

It is important to me to recognise that listening to the voice of the child and young person is not solely about listening within the context of an individual court case but listening to these voices in the context of family justice in particular and justice more generally. We need to make certain that the voice of the child and young person is captured in the development of policy that will affect children and young people as they go through the court process and the wider family justice system now and in the future.

Innocent youngsters growing up can be hugely troubled by the difficulties and dramas in the lives of their parents and their wider families. Children and young people will be affected by what happens to their family in the court room and you will no doubt hear many powerful stories today – movingly and articulately expressed – which bring that home. It is our responsibility, indeed our duty, to make sure that the effect of the system on children and young people is not a negative one but a supportive one and that not a single children or young adult feels that their voice went unheard.

The children and young people who have organised this conference day have a great deal to offer. We have a responsibility not only to listen to what they say but to hear and reflect on what they say, however uncomfortable some of those messages might be.

I ask you to join me in congratulating the Young People’s Board on organising what promises to be an enjoyable, informative and thought-provoking event. Thank you – and all the very best today and in the future.

Children will be seen and heard in Family Courts

Posted July 25, 2014

Children will be given a greater voice in the family justice system so they can tell judges how they feel and what they think about the family disputes they are involved in.

The government has made the commitment that from the age of 10, children and young people involved in all family court hearings in England and Wales will have access to judges to make their views and feelings known.

The announcement was made following calls from young peoples representative group, the Family Justice Young People’s Board, that for too long children have been pushed and pulled through the family justice system with little or no say on what happens to them.

Family Justice Minister Simon Hughes said:

“Children and young people must by law have their views heard before decisions are made about their future, and where decisions are made that will impact them. At the moment, it is still too often that their views are not heard.

“Our commitment to giving children the chance to speak to a judge and make clear their views means children will not only be seen in family courts but they will have their own voice heard. This will put them firmly at the heart of the Family Justice System.”

The government will also work with mediator sector so that children have appropriate access to mediators in cases which affect them.

The age of 10 has been used to be consistent with other existing policy and practice in this country. It is the age of criminal responsibility for young people in England and Wales.

The changes that will effect public and private law cases will be implemented as soon as is practically possible.

The Ministry of Justice will be working with the Family Court judges, with the Children and Family Courts Advisory and Support Service and most importantly with young people themselves to implement this change.

Nick Clegg writes… Remember 2010?

Posted July 25, 2014

2014-02-20 14.23.54Earlier today, I received the following email from the Leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg about the latest news about the revival of the British economy – I do hoope you will take time to read his email and watch the video below:

Today is a big day for Britain: our economy has now recovered to the size it was before the crash in 2008.

For the Liberal Democrats it shows that we were right to form a Coalition Government back in 2010. Our critics still say that it was a betrayal. They think we should have stood by while our banks were in crisis and our economy was on its knees.

Well, they’re wrong: we knew we would take a hit but we put the country’s interests before our own interests. We provided a strong and stable government when Britain needed it and now our economy is going from strength to strength, with more people in work than ever before.

Steve, watch the video below and remember how things stood in 2010. Then, take a moment and forward this email to your friends and share it on Facebook or Twitter:

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We should be extremely proud as Liberal Democrats. The rescue has succeeded because of us – don’t let anyone forget that.

All the best,

Nick

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