More must be done to tackle the delays in resolving cases before the family courts, Esther McVey has said.
The Tatton MP said delays have increased significantly due to Covid and long waits were creating additional stress for the families, at what was already a very difficult time.
Speaking in Parliament she called for action to address the lengthy wait times to ease the burden on all involved.
Ms McVey said: “Delays in family courts were already far too long before Covid and that problem has only got worse since then and that often leads to a parent not being able to see their child in the meantime. This point has been raised to me by many parents in my constituency. Tackling these delays should be a priority.”
Justice Minister Dominic Raab said about half of all cases before family court were safeguarding or domestic abuse cases that needed to be overseen by a judge.
He added: “The rest, frankly, should by and large be dispensed with before court through ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) of one sort or another. We have talked about considering making mediation compulsory, but crucially we need the incentives or disincentives for early resolution to be unequivocal.”
Ms McVey said while out of court mediation or other dispute resolutions worked for some families, it was not suitable for many others. She said the courts were sometimes the only way to resolve complex or ongoing issues and said she would be speaking with Government ministers to see what else can be done to tackle the time delays.
She added: “If there is a safeguarding issue then it is absolutely right that the authorities get all the information they need to keep people safe and that can take time. However, long delays should not be the norm in other cases, especially in family court where children are involved. I know from speaking to constituents how these delays are affecting them and something needs to be done.”