On Friday 9 August in Birmingham, the Family Justice Young Peoples Board (FJYPB) convened the first Voice of the Child Conference. The conference was planned and presented by young people to an audience of professionals and young people. The focus of the conference was to raise professional awareness through storytelling – telling the stories of how members of the FJYPB experienced the family courts, and of what the process and the decisions meant for their lives. Many had overcome such profound difficulties, their stories had become stories of hope, making the event one of the most compelling conferences imaginable.
At the end, the FJYPB received a standing ovation, which I have never seen at such an event. The energy levels of delegates and presenters alike remained high throughout, surviving the legendary “afternoon dip”. Many present said that what they heard would change their working lives, in particular making them more conscious of listening more to children and young people. The Board also launched the consultation on new National Standards or a Charter for child friendly family justice services, which will run until October. This will initially be available on the Cafcass website and we will look for ways to make that more widely available.
As the conference was such a success it will be as an annual event, to collectively assess the progress being made in family justice system reforms through the eyes of children.