Research on the family justice system

Category: ADR Wales, Crime & Justice

12 November 2020

Research on the family justice system

This ongoing research is being undertaken by ADR Wales.

Part of ADR Wales’ ambition is to make data available for researchers across the UK. As such, it sources datasets from various organizations and government not only for its own research purposes but also to maximize the research value of its partnered SAIL (Secure Anonymised Information Linkage) Databank, which is used by researchers around the world.

Over the past year the first ever use of population-level data from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service in Wales (Cafcass Cymru) has thus far generated four reports, demonstrating both the value of this sensitive data and the potential for privacy preserving research at scale. Crucial to the research taking place was the role of ADR Wales in acquiring the Cafcass data for the research team. ADR Wales utilized its long-standing relationship with Welsh Government to facilitate the smooth and timely transfer of data. ADR Wales has since acquired data from Cafcass England and a range of other Welsh government data for related research.

The reports—found here—cover such topics as newborns and infants born into care, women in recurrent care proceedings, characteristics of women involved in care proceedings, and insight into private family law proceedings in Wales. Considering the vulnerable nature of these groups and the rare use of this type of data for research purposes, the reports have received significant media attention and positive stakeholder feedback with ongoing impacts on policy and practice. The reports came from the Family Justice Data Partnership (FJDP), a collaboration between Population Data Science at Swansea University Medical School and Lancaster University, with Cafcass and Cafcass Cymru as integral stakeholders. It is funded by the Nuffield Foundation and provides the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory with ground-breaking analysis about the family justice system.

The acquisition of the Cafcass data has benefitted all parties involved. Both the FJDP/Nuffield FJO and the data owner, Cafcass Cymru, gained important insight into questions they had about these vulnerable populations. Additionally, the ADR Wales research teams have begun using the Cafcass Cymru data for their own projects, for example in its research of children in its Early Years Strategic Impact Programme user group.

In addition to the reports and academic papers already published, more than five other research projects are currently underway using the data held within the SAIL Databank. By enabling the Cafcass Cymru and Cafcass England data to be safely shared and linked, ADR Wales has and continues to play a pivotal role in the creation of impactful research.

Dr Lucy Griffiths, Senior Lecturer and member of the FJDP team at Swansea University said, “ADR Wales’ acquisition of the Cafcass data, supported by FJDP activities, will enable the research community to shed new light on how the family justice system is working, who is using it, pathways through services and outcomes for children and families. Enhancing the research evidence in this area will make a significant contribution to future policy and practices, with the aim of improving the lives of those involved with family courts.”

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