Anthony Douglas, CEO of CAFCASS
CAFCASS is a major source of injustice for children and Targeted Parents. Make no mistake about that. The reasons are these.
Firstly, the training of CAFCASS officers is woeful. Courses in PA are only optional. And the uptake of these courses is lamentable – only 2% of caseworkers take this course.
Second, in July 2017, CAFCASS produced a report about domestic violence. Leaving aside a critique for the moment, it is deeply concerning that CAFCASS chose to involve Women’s Aid, but no groups that represent men. The problem is not just the report itself, but in the narrowness of the consultation. CAFCASS operate, like social workers generally, under false and outmoded paradigms about the roles of men and women in society.
Third, CAFCASS are only now waking up to PA, despite it having been around for over thirty years in its current form.
Fourth – Wishes and Feelings Reports
These are a waste of time and money in PA cases, for the reasons we describe in our case law introduction page, and should be abandoned.
Fifth, when there are (and this is very common) false allegations against the target parent then, According to Anthony Douglas of CAFCASS
“you can’t oversimplify it into punish one parent because generally the punishment of a parent rebounds on a child”
There are several problems with this.
Firstly, the use of ‘oversimplify’ implies a value-judgement that has not been proven. If one parent makes false allegations against the other, that is simple, isn’t it? False allegations loom large in most PA cases. The Alienating Parent alleges that the Targeted Parent has assaulted the Alienating Parent. Or the child. This is simple. It is either true or false. The onus, as with all allegations, is, or ought to be, on the party making the allegations to prove the allegations. As soon as it is clear that the allegations are false, they should be withdrawn, and some kind of sanction levied against AP.
Next, ‘the punishment of a parent rebounds on a child’…
This is an argument adopted by some judges too, when deciding not to send APs to prison for contempt when then ignore court orders. It is a nonsensical argument, for the following reasons:
1 It is probably true that punishment of any parent for any offence will rebound on the child, isn’t it? If mum or dad is sent to prison for murder, for twenty years, this will affect the children;
2 So perhaps no parent should ever be punished for any crime for fear of the effect on the children – that is obviously an untenable position;
3 If prison must be an option for parents if they murder, or rape, steal, commit fraud, or refuse to pay poll tax as it was, then prison should be an option for all imprisonable (this word is a clue!) offences including contempt of court (lying to the court or ignoring court orders).
4 Therefore these things should be punished like any other offence. Nobody considers the effects on a bank robber’s child of the bank robber going to prison…
Anything less than prison would mean that we regard the psychological abuse of children as less serious than physical or sexual abuse or other criminal offences. Or perhaps just not serious at all…Worth noting too is that a judge has many other options at her disposal for punishing parties that do not obey the court.
But of course that is EXACTLY why it is not punished. Nobody seems bothered about psychological abuse of children. Social workers, including (and especially) CAFCASS, can’t even recognise it!
We thought CAFCASS might be changing their ways:
Worth a read is this from Voice of the Child.
The Bias of CAFCASS
It is tempting to believe that CAFCASS is institutionally biased. Biased in whose favour? Well, as the system generally seems to be biased in favour of inertia, you might think that CAFCASS is biased in favour of the Alienating Parent simply because finding in the APs favour means ‘no change’, and that ‘no change’ is best for children.
Well, firstly, ‘no change’ is not best. PA cases must be handled aggressively, to stop the alienation taking hold. If your child were being sexually or physically abused one might hope that immediate action would be taken to remove the child from the thrall of its tormenter. Why should it be different with PA, when the scars are no less deep, and possibly longer-lasting?
Next, an argument can be made that CAFCASS is biased towards AP mothers. For example, in a recent study into domestic violence, CAFCASS took on board the views of Women’s Aid but ignored Men’s groups. That kind of thing does not augur well for an institution that claims gender-neutrality.
CAFCASS must remember that PA is perpetrated by both genders, and against both genders.
CAFCASS has launched a new ‘ground-breaking’ initiative to tackle PA – read more here. Whether, and to what extent, this will help remains to be seen, and there are of course a large number of cases that CAFCASS have already messed up – perhaps a class action would address that.
The real problems with CAFCASS are the same as the main problems with judges and lawyers. They simply do not believe that PA exists and that it is psychological child abuse, an abuse as serious as all other kinds, AND have an outmoded view of gender-roles in modern society.