Partner abuse, birth registration and spending on children: The last week in family law

An article examining data on partner abuse in the UK from the last three years has been published by the Office for National Statistics, with the aim of helping to develop insight into which women are most at risk of experiencing abuse by a partner or former partner. Amongst the findings in the article were that young women were more likely to have experienced abuse in the last 12 months than older women, that women living in households with an income of less than £10,000 were more than four times as likely to have experienced abuse in the last 12 months than women living in households with an income of £50,000 or more, and that women living in social housing were nearly three times as likely to have experienced abuse in the last 12 months than women who were owner-occupiers. Commenting on the findings, Glenn Everett, Deputy Director, Well-being, Inequalities, Sustainability & Environment Division, Office for National Statistics, said: “Today’s analysis gives insight into the characteristics of women and girls who are more likely to experience partner abuse. It also tells us about the types of households they live in. This can help to inform policies and services aimed at ending violence against women and girls”.

A transgender man, who was born a woman but subsequently legally became a man, is arguing that he should be registered as the father of the child he gave birth to. When he went to register the child’s birth the man asked to be identified as the child’s “father” or “parent” on the birth certificate, but was told by the registrar that the law requires people who give birth to children to be registered as mothers. The man is now accusing the body set up to administer statutory provisions relating to the registration of births and deaths of discrimination, saying that forcing him to register as the child’s “mother” breaches his human right to respect for private and family life. The case is being heard in the High Court, and if the man is successful then the child could become the first person born in England and Wales to not legally have a mother. A decision is expected after a trial in September.

The Children’s Commissioner for England’s Office has published research into the levels of government spending on children between 2000 and 2020. The research shows that levels of spending have been broadly maintained over the last twenty years. However, the analysis also reveals a number of deeply concerning trends, with mainstream and acute services, such as 4-16 education and support for children in care, protected at the expense of targeted preventative services. Almost half of spending on children’s services now goes on 73,000 children in the care system, while the other half has to cover the remaining 11.7 million children in England. Altogether, 72% of children’s services budgets go towards helping families in severe need. The report shows there has been a significant reorientation of spending in recent years towards statutory help for children in crisis, while overall children’s services spending has been largely frozen since 2009–10. Spending on preventative support, such as Sure Start and young people’s services, has consequently been cut by around 60% in real-terms between 2009–10 and 2016–17. Richard Watts, chairman of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board, said: “This report paints a stark picture of the reality facing councils, who cannot keep providing this standard of support without being forced to take difficult decisions and cut back on early intervention services which help to prevent children entering the care system in the first place.”

And finally, the latest monthly statistics for care applications and private law demand have been published by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (‘Cafcass’), the organisation that represents children in family court cases. Cafcass received 2,408 new care applications during April to May 2018. This is 7.4% (166 applications) higher than the same period in 2017 and 1% (23 applications) higher than the same period in 2016. The 1,302 applications received in May 2018 is the third highest monthly total on record and highest demand for the month of May since the records began. As to private law demand, Cafcass received 7,217 new private law cases during April and May 2018. This is 6.5% (440 cases) higher than the same period in 2017 and 8.8% (584 cases) higher than the same period in 2016. They received 3,704 new cases during May 2018, which is the third highest total for the month of May since the records began.