New £2.2 million data partnership will shed light on how the family justice system is working
3rd April 2019
A pioneering initiative, co-directed by Lancaster and Swansea Universities, will shed light on and, ultimately, improve the quality of the family justice system.
As part of the new Nuffield Family Justice Observatory (Nuffield FJO), the Nuffield Foundation has established and funded a data partnership with the Centre for Child and Family Justice Research at Lancaster University and the SAIL Databank at Swansea University.
Funded with a grant of £2.2 million, the new data partnership will work closely with the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Services (Cafcass) in England and Wales, given the value of the family justice data produced by these agencies and their frontline knowledge.
Co-Directors are Professor Karen Broadhurst (Lancaster) and Professor David Ford (Swansea). The Lancaster team includes Dr Linda Cusworth (Co-Investigator/Research Fellow, Law School), Professor Judith Harwin (Law School), Dr Bachar Alrouh and Dr Stuart Bedston (Senior Research Associates, Sociology).
Stakeholders in the family justice system - including social workers, judges, and statutory agencies - have identified there is insufficient intelligence about how the system is working, including knowledge about outcomes for children and families involved with the family courts.
The limited knowledge has reflected limited capacity among the family justice research and analytic community but also that access to sensitive data produced routinely by agencies is difficult. The new data partnership will address these challenges, as well as demonstrating the value of linking data to address pressing family justice questions.
Large-scale administrative datasets will be used to deliver completely new population-level analyses.
These will include identifying system level trends and issues at both regional and national levels, producing accessible outputs for practitioners, and engagement with policy and practice networks.
In keeping with the collaborative ethos of the new Observatory, the team will also work closely with practice partners to ensure the work’s real-world relevance, accessibility and impact.
The over-arching aim of the project is to effect step-change in both the analysis and use of core family justice administrative datasets as part of the Nuffield FJO, alongside the production of timely, accessible outputs for its range of audiences.
The data partnership will work closely with the Welsh Government Knowledge and Analytics Service and the Administrative Data Research Unit Wales. It will also work with the Ministry of Justice, the Department for Education and the Administrative Data Research Partnership.
Director of Justice at the Nuffield Foundation Rob Street said: “The new data partnership is a critical component of the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory’s work. It will improve understanding of how the family justice system is working, and enable us to share that understanding with professionals in the family justice system who are making decisions about vulnerable children.”
Co-Director of the data partnership and Principal Investigator Professor Karen Broadhurst said: "We are delighted to be supporting the Nuffield FJO in its ambition to effect step-change in the use of valuable national datasets. Practitioners have consistently said that far too little is known about the impact of the family justice system on the lives of children and families, and the data partnership means that researchers and analysts will now have the opportunity to answer such questions.”
Professor Karen Broadhurst has also been appointed Principal Academic Advisor to the Nuffield FJO Governing Body.