The Quality Circle (more formally the Sussex Family Justice Quality Circle – details below) organised a meeting at Brighton Town Hall in January 2020 to discuss the Charter of Mutual Expectations produced by the Family Rights Group (FRG).

Angela Fraser Wicks and Beverley Campbell from FRG explained that purpose of the Charter is to promote effective, mutually respectful partnership working between practitioners and families when children are subject to statutory intervention. It was written for parents, local authorities and their partner agencies and those working for them by parents and practitioners working together. It covers:

1. Respect and honesty
2. Information sharing
3. Support
4. Participation
5. Communication

FRG proposed that it could be the basis of opening conversations between social workers and parents and be returned to periodically. They pointed out that this sort of initiative was encouraged by the Care Crisis Review.
The meeting, which was led by Nicola McGeown (PSW ESCC) and Francis King (B&HCC) with contributions from and Tom Stibbs (PSW, B&HCC), also discussed renewing and re-invigorating the Quality Circle’s own Culture of Respect document (suggestions about any amendments are welcome).

The Quality Circle proposes to consider how parents might be involved in the organisation of its work.

Additionally, the group considered how it might be possible to invite and encourage more feedback about people’s experiences of the family justice system and how it might be improved.

Next Meeting

On 10th March 2020 at Lewes Town Hall – organised by Kent & Sussex FLBA on vulnerable witnesses (thanks to Lynn McFadyen, Richard Ager and Chris Stringer). The discussion will be led by Nicola Lewis from Intermediaries for Justice & Sian Smith from 42BR.


The Quality Circle is an initiative by social workers and lawyers in Sussex who have created a self-regulating group of practitioners with the aim of identifying the most effective or promising practices and bringing about beneficial change in every aspect of the family justice system in Sussex.

The focus is on legal proceedings concerning children but is multi-disciplinary i.e. it is open to social workers, solicitors, barristers, legal executives, academics, LA lawyers, psychologists, psychiatrists, Cafcass, ISWs and the Police. The meetings are usually attended by some local Judges also.

Those participating in the Quality Circle are committed to sharing their knowledge and ensuring that relevant research, guidance and policy initiatives are appropriately disseminated. The idea is that the work of the group is complimentary to that of organisations like Association of Lawyers for Children, Resolution and the Family Law Bar Association and is not in competition with them.

The group had its first meeting in Brighton in November 2017 and has met every other month since then. Meetings move around between West and East Sussex and Brighton & Hove to encourage participation. The group has already covered subjects such as: child sexual abuse and exploitation, the experience of parents and, “the voice of the child.” A good example of the group’s approach was the development of a set of principles entitled, “Creating a Culture of Respect” inspired originally by the writings of “Surviving Safeguarding” about how alienating many families feel by Court and legal proceedings. This was subsequently approved by the Sussex Family Justice Board and published by Nuffield Family Justice Observatory. We are now seeking to renew this document.


People’s time is at a premium and so meetings take about 75 minutes with seating being in the round (so far as possible) to promote discussion. Contributions from newly qualified practitioners, students and trainees are particularly welcome. Participants are encouraged to identify practical examples of improvements to practice with these being discussed and adopted/modified as a result of the discussion. Written material is disseminated regularly to the mailing list (of more than 500 practitioners).

To join the mailing list (or be removed from it), email:


The Quality Circle would welcome volunteers to help its work and provide suggestions for subjects that should be explored/research that should be disseminated.