This year, the Family Justice Young People’s Board (FJYPB) celebrates its 10th anniversary. They've come a long way.
Over the years, the FJYPB (formerly the Cafcass Young People’s Board) has become part of the governance structure of the family justice system. From reviews of Cafcass services, courts and contact centres to involvement with key policy work, the FJYPB has had a real impact on the lives of children and families going through the family courts.
Anthony Douglas, Cafcass Chief Executive, says, "The Board has achieved credibility with senior judges and ministers. Their presentations at numerous conferences, including at their own annual Voice of the Child conference, have also won over hearts and minds. Their messages have changed the way people think about the family justice system and what works best for children and young people."
Having started from scratch in 2006, that is a major achievement.
The last remaining founding members of the Board, Ben Hitch and Rebecca Musgrove (pictured above) will sadly be retiring this month after a decade on the Board. We will really miss them!
Back in 2006, the Board was set up by the then Children's Rights Team. I got to know about it at the time through the UK Youth Parliament, when I was a deputy member. I applied, having seen my nephew and niece suffer from their parent’s separation, and after interviewing was appointed.
Over the years, founding members departed and new members joined me and Rebecca in our collective mission to make the lives of children and young people experiencing the family justice system better. I remember our first trip well, sent out to the middle of nowhere in the Peak District. That's when we first got our hands on the Needs, Wishes and Feelings pack. Would you believe that started as a task of cutting, sticking and scribbles? Then we got involved in any piece of work we could, touring the county reviewing Cafcass offices, speaking at any conference that would have us, and peer mentoring. Speaking in front of the then President of the Family Division, Sir Mark Potter, was pretty special too. But being invited to Parliament for afternoon tea with Bridget Prentice topped the lot!
The Board is just massive now, and that's thanks to the hard work of all involved, and the recognition of the Family Justice Review and Ofsted. We have grown from a small group of children and young people within Cafcass, to a huge group challenging the family justice system as a whole.
Being on the Board, I have learnt to articulate my thoughts better. The Board really has been my life. Some young people play football and rugby, others dance and play instruments – I on the other hand devoted my teen years to the work of the Board, and in return I gained friends from its community of children and young people. I have lifelong memories that I will cherish forever.
In terms of my own future, I'm a Trainee Solicitor with Wakefield Council, qualifying next October. I truly believe that without the help of the Board, and the support of those involved, I wouldn't be where I am now. I wish the Board every success in the future. I trust it will continue to grow and strive as it has done to date. Here's to the next 10 years!
“I remember working with Rebecca in Newcastle when she was 14. She impressed me with her determination to win and her ability to hold her own with people who were much older than her. Rebecca commanded respect then and does so now. I’d like to thank her for making the FJYPB credible at the most senior levels of Government as well. That has been a real service to children and young people.
“I’d like to thank Ben for being very clear all the way through that the Young People’s Board only exists in order to make the lives of children going through the family justice system better. He has certainly done that himself and is determined to challenge the status quo when it is wrong. I am very proud to have known him for such a long time.
“The last 10 years has been a rollercoaster and I’m sure the next 10 will be the same. I expect the FJYPB to remain at the heart of the system and Cafcass will support them to stay there and to be sustainable.”
Please check out next month’s newsletter column from the FJYPB where you can find out about what the Board will be getting up to in 2017. You can also hear Rebecca’s experience of being on the Board and find out more about the FJYPB and the work they do on the Cafcass website.