Column: Small changes but big impacts

In the midst of all the huge international issues facing us at the moment it is easy to start 2017 feeling uneasy about the future.

Wednesday, 11th January 2017, 11:49 am
Updated Wednesday, 11th January 2017, 11:51 am
General election 2015 Sheffield count at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield. Angela Smith, Labour, wins the Penistone & Stocksbridge seat.

Conflict in the Middle East, a resurgent and increasingly belligerent Russia and the election of Donald Trump in the US are among the many things that will feature in the news this year, I am sure.

We should not forget, however, that there are still important things to do on the domestic front. Life goes on and it is the duty of politicians to do their best to deliver the changes which promise to make Britain a stronger and fairer society.

Sometimes these changes can be quite small, but that does not mean they are not important. Small changes can deliver big impacts, improving thousands of peoples’ lives. Take, as an example, the Government’s recent announcement that it wants to remove the right of abusers to question their victims in the family courts.

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This change is long overdue and we are determined to see it successfully delivered. Too many women have found themselves forced to relive in the family court the abuse they have suffered. It is a system which has failed to recognise fully the impact of domestic abuse on women and their children. It is a system, in fact, which has consistently failed to put children first.

My involvement in the argument for reform of the Family Courts has been as part of the Women’s Aid campaign, Child First.

It was my constituent, Claire Throssell, who got me involved; Claire will be well known to all Star readers as the incredibly brave mother whose two beautiful boys, Jack and Paul, were killed by their father in the fire he started in the family home.

It’s impossible to write about this without being struck afresh by the scale of the tragedy that Claire had to face, and has to continue to face. Every time the issue of what happened to her boys is raised, Claire has to go through agony.

That’s exactly why Claire is such a brave woman, because she is determined to create a positive legacy in memory of her precious children. She will travel anywhere, talk to anybody, go through her story time and time again, to secure the changes that she thinks are necessary if we are to make sure that children in the future will not suffer in the way that Jack and Paul suffered.

Jack and Paul were let down by a family court system that failed to listen to the evidence of abuse that their mum knew made the boys vulnerable.

The family court, in their case, did not recognise the threat and allowed Darren Sykes, their father, unsupervised access to his children. With tragic, fatal consequences.

The family court system must be reformed and the proposed ban on the questioning of victims by their abusers would be a start.

There is a long way to go, however, and I hope that Star readers will join the Women’s Aid campaign to secure the changes we so badly need at Womens Aid - Campaigning and Influencing