Campaigns: Law/public affairs - Law firm fights to help broken families

Campaign: Kids in Divorce or Separation
Client: Mishcon de Reya
PR team: Consolidated PR
Timescale: November 2009
Budget: £50,000

Law firm Mishcon de Reya wanted to use the 20th anniversary of the Children Act to look at how effective the legislation has been in safeguarding the interests of children experiencing family breakdown The current controversial family law system can mean divorcing parents use the court system to fight over issues relating to their children. Mishcon wanted to campaign for changes to ensure a better deal for children in the future.

Objectives

- To use the 20th anniversary of the Children Act to see how effective it has been

- To lead the debate for change in the law

- To provide a solution to children feeling disenfranchised by the legal system.

STRATEGY AND PLAN

The PR team and Mishcon de Reya decided to set out a proposal for change and engage directly with stakeholders, to help build public awareness.

A policy was drafted by the law firm highlighting the problems in the system and setting out the possible solution of compulsory family therapy for couples, to ensure they can end a relationship and still co-parent effectively.

Consolidated launched the policy document by setting up a debate in Westminster Palace with a high-profile panel including Mishcon's head of family law, Sandra Davis, shadow minister for children, Tim Loughton MP, and chairman of the Law Commission, the Rt Hon Lord Justice Munby.

The debate was held as Mishcon launched research showing how children and parents had been affected by the legal system - the research found up to one in three fathers had lost contact with their children, and the children themselves were often finding themselves caught in the middle of battling parents. This was found to often lead to children turning to drink, drugs and crime because of their family breakdown.

Mishcon also worked with The Children's Society to create content for its Kids Zone website - videos to help children make sense of their parents breaking up and the changes this could mean.

Measurement and evaluation

The campaign achieved 17 pieces of national coverage. Launch day saw coverage in The Daily Telegraph, The Times, The Sun, the Daily Mail and The Guardian. The campaign also generated a double-page spread in The Sun by agony aunt Deirdre Saunders, while Vanessa Feltz covered the issue in her weekly column in the Daily Express. The story also appeared on national broadcast outlets including BBC Breakfast, the Today programme and BBC News 24.

Results

The Westminster debate attracted 67 influential guests including MPs, think-tanks, the Department for Children, Schools and Families, Cafcass and the National Mediation Centre.

Further meetings with key stakeholders, including Cafcass, the independent body that looks after the interests of children involved in family proceedings, have been set up as the general election approaches.

SECOND OPINION

Jo Cole, Account manager, Political Mandate

One of the most difficult things to achieve when working on a highly emotive, single-issue campaign is to unite various organisations, charities, politicians and government to work towards a common purpose. Consolidated PR successfully engaged a wide variety of stakeholders and managed the campaign in such a way that the debate remained focused and effective.

Consolidated recognised that to be an effective parliamentary campaign both policy and politics had a role and therefore ensured the policy case was made. Consolidated PR's policy document and research provided a solid justification for legislative change and was key in securing high profile speakers and guests at the Westminster debate, and in securing national coverage.

There is no doubt that the campaign was incredibly successful and achieved great results in terms of reaching a wide spread of decision-makers.

Consolidated PR recognised legislative change such as this takes time. Its work with The Children's Society to provide immediate help for children is a good example of achieving small steps in the interim while waiting for the necessary lengthy parliamentary processes.

However, success will be judged on two factors. Firstly, maintaining the pressure on all political parties to turn election promises into policy commitments, and secondly, changing the lives of children who find themselves in the centre of a family breakdown.

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