The Government wants to spend 14 million pounds of your money developing a free downloadable divorce app for parents who are splitting up. The scheme will provide interventions that can help parents work together, including intensive counselling, emotional support and mediation, as well as online and telephone advice. According to the press release, guidance will be given on a range of issues including advice on ‘how to prevent fighting in front of children, organising child support payments and how to cope with new partners. Help will also be offered on other issues including help for wives “dumped” in favour of a younger woman, those wanting to save their relationship and those concerned with how to properly interact with stepchildren.’
The idea presumably, is that instead of throwing their mobile phones at each other, rowing couples will calmly sit down and consult them for advice. If only it were that easy. Divorce is an intensely emotional and therefore, often highly irrational experience and while Maria Miller, the Families minister’s desire to make it “easier for parents to access the help they need during this time,” is admirable, she naively suggests that the “divorce app” will save money by encouraging parents to resolve disputes rather than relying on the Child Support Agency. Really.
I’m not sure whether anyone in Westminster actually bothered to do any research before releasing this latest brainwave to the press, but the internet is already awash with an ocean of free, impartial and helpful advice about the emotional, financial and parental implications of divorce. At Divorce.co.uk for example, lawyers Mills & Reeve provide a, wait for it, free downloadable Divorce UK app, which has been ranked as one of the top 500 apps in the world by The Sunday Times and includes step by step guidance, a glossary of legal terms, video advice and a GPS court finder. Direct.Gov.UK also have a whole section devoted to the legal and financial implications of divorce and the National Family Mediation provides a wealth of free advice and access to all sorts of family support services.
Men and women have access to individual services too. Divorced Fathers provides help specifically aimed at men, while Maypole Women supports women, and their children. Wikivorce, an award winning social enterprise which is run by volunteers and sponsored by Government and charity funding provides direct support to 50,000 people a year, and if you throw in Mumsnet, Gransnet, The Second Wives Club, Fathers for Justice and even The Child Support Agency, its not hard to see that the information is all there if you look for it.
While you could legitimately argue that it would be simpler if all this information was gathered together under a single umbrella application, fourteen million pounds is an awful lot of money to spend on what what will, essentially, be a cut and paste job. And of course the real tragedy is that the fourteen million pounds spent replicating exiting services means that there will, of course, be ‘no money’ left in the coffers to provide the kind of specialised social care that is required to ensure that the most vulnerable and hard-to-reach (the ones without laptops and iPhones) are properly protected through the hazards of the divorce process.