CAFCASS DATA

I made some Freedom of Information Act requests recently to see if some hunches I had about CAFCASS were good. They don’t completely answer that question but I thought I’d share with you anyway. A request about the number of contact monitoring orders was declined as they didn’t have the data in accessible format, but below you can see charts showing the number of Family Assistance Orders, appointments of private law guardians and of Contact Activity Directions / Orders made.

As anticipated there has been a decline in FAOs, although not to a great deal lower than in previous years, prior to a 2011 spike. Again, unsurprisingly the number of private law guardians has been on the up for a while, and the number of CAD / CACs has become better established since their inception a few years ago.  Continue Reading…

Stalking Napo

A long time ago in 2011 I wrote a blog post that was critical of Napo: the blogpost ABUSE OF PROCESS: DRAMATIC EXTENT OF STALKING IN THE FAMILY COURTS concerned the publication of a “dossier” of family court cases said to support the proposition that family court processes were being abused by convicted stalkers (published by Napo and PAS). Harry Fletcher, Assistant General Secretary of Napo, in a press release at the time said it was “outrageous” that “perpetrators of child abuse, murder and rape were given legal aid to continue to torment their victims through the family courts. This appears to have been going on for many years and has caused untold stress to victims and families. It is crucial that these vexatious applications be struck out“.

It was a punchy soundbite, but I didn’t think that the dossier made out the case at all, even if the underlying point was a good one. And I was worried that Napo had published a document that gave a very poor impression as to the impartiality of CAFCASS and did not advance public confidence in the family court system. More particularly I was worried that the material had been published in breach of the law concerning publication of information arising from family proceedings. In a year when at least one parent and one campaigner had been held in contempt of court for breach of that law (albeit a breach of a specific injunction rather than the rules per se – see Doncaster MBC v Watson [2011] EWHC 2376, the last in a series of judgments in that case [update 5 July : in fact there is a later judgment Doncaster MBC v Watson [2011] EWHC 2498 which deals with the question of whether the court could make a suspended order on an application to purge]), I thought it was unlikely (and yet on one level unsurprising) that an organisation like Napo would have, in conjunction with CAFCASS Officers, breached those court rules for the sake of a publicity campaign. On the face of it this seemed to be what had happened, which I thought rather extraordinary. So, before publication I tried to get in touch with Napo to make sure I had my facts straight. I asked how the case studies had been obtained, whether they were from a single source and whether the facts had been verified in some way. I asked if the other parties involved in the case, their lawyers or the judge in the case had been consulted. And I asked if judicial permission for disclosure of the information had been sought and received. I heard nothing. Continue Reading…

Open letter to CAFCASS

“An open letter in respect of my resignation from Cafcass

26 September 2011

Dear  …………………,

I have long had my doubts as to whether Cafcass as an organisation is fit for purposeI have been critical of the honesty and integrity of the management of the service, things that continue to concern me.  I have to agree with the many individuals and organisations who have concluded that the problems of Cafcass are so manifold and entrenched   that any satisfactory solution requires a complete transformation.

This has, inevitably created tensions in my employment, particularly as Cafcass has become increasingly prescriptive in the way in which it requires its advisors to work.  The emergence and consolidation within Cafcass of a ‘compliance culture where meeting performance management demands becomes the dominant focus rather than meeting the needs of children and their families’ (Munro Review of Child Protection: Final Report: HMSO May 2011) is something that I, and many of my colleagues have found to be deeply troubling.

I have therefore, reluctantly, come to the conclusion that it is not possible for me, as a Cafcass employee, properly to represent the interests  of children nor to report independently, honestly and helpfully to the court in a way that is consistent with my statutory duties and my professional conscience.  Fulfilling the statutory duties  of a family court reporter requires a degree of professional autonomy which Cafcass employees are, in practice, effectively denied by the compliance culture and its various managerial buttresses.

I have  therefore resigned from Cafcass.  My last day of service was yesterday.

It is not possible for me personally to contact everyone with whom I have worked over many years but I would like to express my thanks to everyone within the Bristol and Avon Family Justice world for the generous advice, assistance and support I have received in all sorts of ways.  Please feel free to circulate this letter – and apologies to those I have not contacted directly.

Yours sincerely

Charles Place”

Background:

CAFCASS WEBSITE

Charles Place was suspended from CAFCASS in 2009 and allegations of misconduct made against him in connection with his voicing of concerns about the operation of CAFCASS were not upheld by the General Social Care Council. In it’s decision notice the GSCC stated that Mr Place’s criticism of delay in CAFCASS reporting on a private forum was “legitimate” and that “the facts supported the stance taken by [Mr Place] that CAFCASS had put a dishonest spin on the scale of the problems it faced.” The decision notice can be found here.

Anthony Douglas, CEO CAFCASS

Anthony Douglas, CEO CAFCASS

I contacted Charles Place as a courtesy to ask if he minded the above letter being posted on Pink Tape. In his reply Mr Place raises a number of other points which, if an accurate reflection of how CAFCASS is operating, are very concerning. I have thought about whether or not it would be appropriate to include those supplemental comments in this blog post, but it seems to me that the questions raised are serious ones, and which are of public interest. I have however left out parts of the correspondence which might identify any individual, or which concern the detail of Mr Place’s working relationship with specific colleagues.

I do not know whether the information below is entirely accurate – others may respond and tell me that Mr Place is wrong – but I do know that much of what he says is entirely consistent with my own observations and what other CAFCASS officers have told me openly or in confidence. I am however merely an outsider to the organisation, albeit that I have regular and frequent contact with it’s representatives, and struggle daily to match needs of individual families with the a la carte menu of defined and restricted services that is a feature of post-Interim-Guidance CAFCASS.

In fairness to CAFCASS, they have of late received more positive inspection reports than in previous years (one example is here), which is an indication that they are doing something right. It is also fair to point out that CAFCASS, like other areas of the family justice system, continue to operate under increasing demand (see here: August care stats at record levels).

Continue Reading…