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Absence of Consumer Representative on Family Court Review

Absence of Consumer Representative on Family Court Review Reference Group “is a worrying omission” says Counsellor & Service Outcomes Researcher

The Ministry of Justice’s graphic omission of a Consumer Representative on the Family Court Review Reference Panel is a worrying omission, and one that will create a deficit in hearing the voices of individuals and families most directly affected by the Family Court process, says Steve Taylor, Director of 24-7 Ltd, and Service Outcomes Researcher.

I find the omission of a Consumer Representative from the Family Court Review Reference Group as somewhat surprising, as almost all Social Service based intervention groups now have Consumer Representatives, including national and local body organisations.

In 2010, The New Zealand Family Court (thereafter “the Court”), managing proceedings covering 20 Acts of Parliament, received 68,666 new applications to assist in resolving various types of family conflict, with Court expenditure reported by Justice Minister Simon Power having increased by 63% as at 2009 – 2010, from $83.9 million to $137 million p/a, since 2005 (Ministry of Justice, 2011).

In 2009-2010, $60.7 million p/a of Court expenditure was allocated to Counselling, Mediation, and Psychological reports, $50.3 million p/a of Court expenditure was allocated to Legal Aid, $26.1 million of Court expenditure was allocated to Court operating costs, and $52.3 million p/a of Court expenditure was allocated to Care of Children applications (Ministry of Justice, 2011).

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Increased expenditure has reportedly not resulted in better client or service outcomes, particularly for children (Ministry of Justice, 2011). In fact, it does not appear to be clear as to what client or service outcomes are being measured, how they are being measured, or by whom.

The role of the service consumers voice being privileged in the process of receiving formal service delivery is a critical factor in the success or otherwise of a particular intervention, and this factor is especially important to consider in the context of the Family Court Review, when individuals and families have been so dramatically affected by the process, sometimes to the point of self-harm, suicide, and murder” says Mr Taylor.

Mr Taylor is currently writing a Client Outcome Service Summary on the New Zealand Family Court, as part of his Masters Degree, focussing on Counselling and Mediation service measurement and client outcomes from a Consumer based feedback perspective.

ENDS

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