The Nuffield Foundation last week released a report detailing its plan, first proposed in 2014, to establish a Family Justice Observatory.

The Nuffield Foundation is one of the principal funders of family justice research. Founded in 1943 by William Norris, Lord Nuffield, who also founded Morris Motors; it is a financially and politically independent charity. It seeks to improve people’s lives and social well-being by enabling people to reach their potential through education, skills and access to social, economic and legal resources.

The Family Justice Observatory will act on recommendations made by the Family Justice Review in 2011. It also draws on propositions put forward by the foundation in its briefing paper, “Towards a Family Justice Observatory to improve the generation and application of research.” After that briefing paper was released in 2015, the foundation conducted a comprehensive scoping study to determine in further detail the issues involved and the best way to move forward with the family justice observatory project. As part of this research, they consulted with leading organisations and individuals in the family justice field, both domestically and internationally. They sought to understand their needs, viewpoints and advice and combine these insights with knowledge accrued from empirical research and administrative data. The observatory will continue this work in order to ensure the best possible decisions are made for children in the family justice system.

The foundation has identified an initial fund of up to £5 million that will be available for the entire incubation phase of between five to six years. In March 2018, the project will begin an initial year-long development phase. The Family Justice Observatory will need to isolate priority issues for the family legal system and those who work within it, to identify how empirical evidence combined with other types of knowledge can assist with these issues, and then to improve both the data & research evidence available and access to that evidence. Amongst other things, The Family Justice Observatory aims to produce a flagship study on infants in the family justice system within this first development year. The pilot phase which follows will last between four to five years and will include an evaluation plan to test the impact of the Observatory’s work, allowing it to learn and adapt. During both the development and pilot delivery phase, resources will be made available online as they are developed.

The report, titled “The Nuffield Family Justice Observatory for England and Wales: Making it Happen” can be accessed here.