Towards a family justice observatory

The Nuffield Foundation is establishing a Nuffield Family Justice Observatory to support the best possible decisions for children by improving the use of data and research evidence in the family justice system in England and Wales.

Development phase

A 12-month development phase will begin in March 2018, delivered by a team appointed by the Foundation. The development phase will build the infrastructure and operating model for the Observatory, followed by a 4-5 year pilot delivery phase, to begin in spring 2019.

These plans are set out in detail in the report, The Nuffield Family Justice Observatory for England and Wales: Making it Happen, which demonstrates how the Observatory’s development has been informed by the findings from a scoping study commissioned to establish its purpose, functions and delivery options. The scoping study was led by Professor Karen Broadhurst at Lancaster University and included extensive consultation with stakeholders within the family justice system.

The need

The Observatory will address the need – identified by the Family Justice Review in 2011 – to make better use of research findings and administrative data in family justice decision-making. The Nuffield Foundation, as one of the principal funders of family justice research, has been keen to take a lead on this, first proposing a Family Justice Observatory in 2014. The Foundation has identified a fund of up to £5 million initially that will be available for the development and pilot delivery phases of the Observatory.

What will the Observatory do? 

The Nuffield Family Justice Observatory will focus on meeting the needs of practitioners who make pivotal decisions in the lives of children and families by:

  • Working with them to identify priority issues where empirical evidence may help guide practice.
  • Providing reliable summaries of what is, and is not, known from research or administrative data.
  • Combining knowledge from empirical research with insights from policy, practice and user experience.
  • Working with professionals in the family justice system to develop, update and test guidance and other tools based on that knowledge.

The Observatory’s remit will include public and private law issues, and the broad family justice ecosystem, as well as the courts. 



Nuffield Foundation Briefing papers

The Nuffield Family Justice Observatory for England and Wales: Making it Happen (PDF)
Karen Broadhurst, Tracey Budd & Teresa Williams (Feb 2018)

Towards a family justice observatory to improve the generation and application of research (PDF)
Professor Bryan Rodgers, Professor Liz Trinder and Teresa Williams (Oct 2015)

Scoping study reports

International Scoping Exercise - main findings report by G.Hyde-Dryden and H.Ward (November 2017) 

Who Cares for Children?  Population data for family justice research by Jay, M.A., Woodman, J., Broadhurst, K., Gilbert, R. (2017)

National Stakeholder Consultation Report, by Prof. Broadhurst et al, 2017

Knowledge Exchange Report

Using Population Level Data to Understand the Family Justice System - report from a Knowledge Exchange event

Scoping study website


For the latest information about the scoping study, visit the website