Towards a family justice observatory

The Nuffield Foundation is leading a project to improve the generation and application of research in the family justice system.  

The need for a new infrastructure

There is a broad consensus that a new infrastructure is needed to facilitate better use of research findings and administrative data within the family justice system. This might be a single institution or, more likely, a consortium of organisations that collectively ensure participants in the system have a) appropriate access to reliable research to inform their analysis of options for specific family cases, and b) system performance data to assist in the allocation of resources and the development of new services and interventions.

Briefing paper and scoping study

In October 2014 we set out what we saw as the fundamental purpose and functions of the new infrastructure in a briefing paper: Towards a family justice observatory to improve the generation and application of research

Following a tender process, we appointed a team led by Professor Karen Broadhurst to undertake a scoping study to develop these proposals further. The team brings together a mix of academics and policy and practice leaders, to ensure that the scoping study engages closely with the full range of stakeholders within the family justice system. The study aims to shed light on questions of both research generation and research utilisation.

Supply and demand

On the ‘supply’ side, Ruth Gilbert (Co-Director of the Administrative Data Centre – England) will examine relevant administrative data assets with the aim of demonstrating how data routinely collected for family court, health and education purposes can be used to understand patterns and outcomes of the family justice system. This component will address the technical and governance issues that currently stand in the way of better use of population-wide datasets for research purposes.

Regarding ‘demand’, a detailed consultation will take place to enable far greater understanding of how different stakeholders access and apply research in their everyday work. Consultation will include a national call for evidence, a series of focus groups, and a review of existing observatories/other organisational models. The team will also consult with relevant organisational leads in a range of international contexts.

Updates on project progress

A combination of dissemination events and short briefing papers will keep the family justice community up-to-date with the progress of this study and interim findings. For the latest information about the scoping study, visit the project website


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

Call for expressions of interest for delivery of a scoping study to develop proposals for a family justice observatory (PDF)

Briefing paper

Towards a family justice observatory to improve the generation and application of research (PDF)

Professor Bryan Rodgers (Australian National University), Professor Liz Trinder (University of Exeter) and Teresa Williams (Nuffield Foundation)

Project website


For the latest information about the project, visit the project website