Updated: Cafcass, Douglas, and the High Conflict Pathway

14 Responses

  1. Kenneth Lane says:

    Excellent research! It is to its shame that Cafcass is seemingly unable, or unwilling, to expend the same amount of effort in putting right whats wrong with the so-called ‘high conflict pathway’. Without a proper foundation in Parental Alienation it is woefully inadequate.
    This invaluable insight into Cafcass systemic failings only came about because of those “throwing rocks”. Perhaps we should all start throwing more of them?

  2. nongenderbias9 says:

    At the Fnf seminar Anthony Douglas describes growing up with two different families neither of which he seems to have described with any love. His experience of family seems to be one of survival having survived two families and still pursued a very successful career.
    However what we are talking about is saving the relationships of children with their parents.
    There is nothing that Anthony Douglas has said that supports this view. He may have been deprived of such a joyous experience.
    For him it’s all about asking the children what they want.
    Perhaps this is his wish for children based on his own experience.
    Does he want children to experience his own fate?
    This is in no way intended to denigrate the man, it is simply an opinion based on observation.
    Who knows?
    In the present situation it is hardly surprising the child’s emotional relationship with both of their parents is considered valueless.

  3. Ally says:

    I was at that workshop. I listened with some hope as AD talked about his experiences & of this new tool. I am now feeling extremely dejected that it appears to be a complete waste of time and, as usual, AD can say all the right things, his organisation & the FCAs don’t follow that at all. The left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing? Has he actually read this high conflict pathway?

  4. LAC Parent says:

    Not really my area but had child in Care (s20) Coped by learning all about the Care system including going to conferences and carrying out a big FOI exercise. Once at a conference I attended CAFCASS man sat on panel beside OFSTED man. I asked a difficult question of OFSTED man about quality of inspections re health checks for LAC based on the FOI responses from LAs.
    CAFCASS man did’ent like my tone ( not respectful? not deferential?) , stepped in to defend OFSTED man. He had to be corrected by OFSTED man who answered my question openly and politely.
    I was taken aback.
    Made me wonder about who CAFCASS are and their training.
    Made me question who they represent and their values..
    ( It was a tiny attempted bullying incident really and CAFCASS should know OFSTED answer to us all in a democracy? OFSTED know it and they really do have a culture of listening to non-establishment voices. Truthfully CAFCASS man did seem surprisingly amateurish )
    Just one incident no more no less but got me thinking.

  5. Ilovemykids says:

    PA should be made illegal. Britain’s shameful scandal of child abuse needs regulation at Government level. The court rely on CAFCASS opinion as the expert when in fact they are untrained, biased and have left more kids in harm. In my case a professional’s report identified PA and that it was causing significant harm to the child. The long winded family court and CAFCASS caused that despite my warning them. I have lost 5 years and tens of thousands of pounds in my case. When PA was found to be the cause I still had to pay thousands for the experts to reunite me. I have done nothing wrong yet I mourned the loss of my child as if she had passed, it was horrendous for my child too, the evidence was always there but no body wanted to see.

  6. hopeForSanity says:

    I was so hopeful when I saw the guardian article at the weekend. I thought, surely not – finally some common sense, real hope or false hope? Alas, it sounds like with the digging you have done, it’s a pointless spin exercise. Psychologists and mediators need to be involved in family separations. Not lawyers. And not Cafcass.

  7. Ian findlay says:

    Your researchers of course had the advantage of the manuals and handbooks that were not available to Paul Apreda at the time he spoke. In fact it was as a result of pressure from FNF members that Anthony Douglas agreed to publish them.

    I am surprised you did not mention the contribution of Dr Sue Whitcomb’s who made a very clear critique of the ‘high conflict pathway’s but of the NSPCC spokesman who spoke for 40 minute without even mentioning PA.

    To paraphrase Sue. PA is not an issue of parental conflict it is an issue of undiagnosed child abuse. Treating the child as a victim of parental conflict is the wrong approach. It implies that if you remove the conflict the child will be fine. CAFCASS and the court often relinquish responsibility for decisions by a wishes and feelings report. Often allowing a child, too young to make such life changing decisions, to decide which parent to live with.

    This will not help the child and is more likely to result in emotional damage and guilt when the child eventually realises they have been tricked.

    This event was billed as a Workshop. A chance for debate and to develop a cross agency strategy for change. I am disappointed that VofC should use this to try and sow dissent in FNF. I am very fond of Vincent McGovern. He works tirelessly of the rights of children and like me he has good reason not to trust CAFCASS. We have both seen the bad grammar, senseless sentences, wrong research references, incomplete investigations, missing safeguarding concerns, groundless allegations, the use of ‘tools’ that give CAFCASS officers the impression they are significantly more qualified than they are, the cut and paste that so often characterises their reports. But your Next Steps suggestion is almost child like. First suggesting that FNF and the charities in volved have their ‘snouts in a trough’ is insulting. There is no trough’. No money, no advantage and no enjoyment to helping thousands of traumatised parents find a way through the nightmare that is this legal system. We need to work together to expose this failed system.

    This in large part involves challenging the ideology that supports these organisation. This is about equality.

  8. That’s one view and of course you’re entitled to it.

    However… the manuals were obtained solely through FOI requests by researchers from our team and through no effort of FnF.

    A copy of the manual was published in a private Facebook group (of which Paul Apreda is an active member) on October 3rd 2017 prior to your “workshop”.

    A number of our researchers attended the “workshop” and know very well what Dr Sue Whitcomb said. Sue gave an impassioned talk on PA and the consequences to both the child and the extended and alienated family, speaking from her heart throughout.

    We’re also aware of the NSPCC portion of the “workshop” – and FnF should also publish their video files of the NSPCC contribution. We will respond to the NSPCC in time and most specifically to their contribution around Local Safeguarding Boards, involvement of schools, and the detection and treatment of emotional abuse. You are correct when you say they didn’t mention PA. They didn’t, and that was a wasted opportunity on their part.

    But this article isn’t about Sue, or about the NSPCC; it’s about FnF’s continued strategy of being led down the garden path by Cafcass and is in direct response to the both the public “rock-throwing” comments made by Paul in his summing up, and in email correspondence to us following the event.

    We’re extremely grateful to FnF for organising this “workshop” (although we take issue with your comments about it being a proper workshop; it was more of a “speech with limited Q&A format at the end” style event rather than an actual proper workshop where people roll their sleeves up and get stuck in). BUT: (and this is important) To get those people in a room together took a monumental effort by some very dedicated FnF members and that has been and will continue to be acknowledged by us and others.

    We also believe that FnF does some amazing work at grass routes levels and has provided decades of support to thousands of people who have had nowhere else to turn. We do not want for one minute to diminish that in any way. They’ve saved lives and saved children.

    Where we take issue with, and this goes to our point about Vincent McGovern (who we agree works tirelessly) is that Vincent was not afraid to say what he saw and to make it clear that the lack of training and accountability was deeply concerning, and yet Paul did nothing but praise Cafcass and Anthony Douglas. FnF are of course free to do what they please with their seat at the table but we were disappointed that Paul didn’t at the very least raise his eyebrows to Anthony Douglas. Our view was and is that FnF can do much more to achieve real change and that public opportunities like these, and the regular ones that FnF have behind the scenes with Cafcass and of course the President of the Family Division, are opportunities to speak truth to power.

    If we look at the HCP being proposed what is clear is that Cafcass see it as the solution to all high conflict and intractable issues when we all know, and you make the point yourself, that it isn’t. PA is primarily about mental health, but it is also about coercive control, domestic abuse, and financial abuse – and Cafcass haven’t considered how best they will tackle this beyond a tick box exercise to pacify FnF and others.

    There’s been no thought into how this will impact on an increase in demand for FoF hearings etc, the effect on the new “fast-track” reports that Cafcass are currently trialing to replace s7 reports, and that’s before we even get started on the tools included within the Pathway that Cafcass have admitted their own internal and unqualified (unqualified=suitably qualified. They’re qualified in something, just not what they should be) NIS team are authoring. Have you even looked at the tools they use and are proposing to use? Do you know who authored them? The citations and reference points for them? We do, and it’s frankly horrifying. It shouldn’t be allowed. FnF telling everyone how grateful they are that Cafcass are seeing the light isn’t the answer – this needs scrutiny, it needs consideration, it needs evaluation, and it needs responding to robustly and firmly.

    Nobody challenged Cafcass publicly on their use of their Implacable Hostility Tool so they carried on using it, or not using it, for years, with no training, no reference points, no measurement of outcomes, and everytime somebody raised a complaint with the Judiciary, with MPs, with Cafcass themselves about PA Cafcass sent them a “go away” response citing the use of this tool. It’s a nonsense and a travesty and this should have been dealt with by the people and organisations who came before us but it wasn’t.

    Have you seen their Safe Contact Indicator Tool either? You do know that the majority of FnF members facing indirect contact or contact-centre contact are the victims of the use of that tool? And yet I cannot find anywhere that FnF have ever challenged it. And no doubt it’ll be included in the toolset used to determine whether contact is safe…

    And don’t get us started on the mandatory training. It is no good issuing mandatory training if you’re training people badly and incorrectly. Take a look at the manual we’ve obtained and read the bits on PA. Is that what you would expect from a trumpeted training course on such a high profile issue? of course it isn’t but that is the very basis of this new pathway.

    Sarah Parsons has started taking over the PR for this for Cafcass since we posted this post – but what’s her role within Cafcass? which is her area of responsibility? take a look at the training records of FCAs in her service areas – why isn’t anyone challenging her on this?

    Cafcass plan to publish this HCP in February or March. We’ve forced them to issue it for consultation with a small group of stakeholders of which FnF is one. They have only done this because we have taken them to task publicly and privately. It’s time for others to take them to task too.

    Time is ticking.

    PS Nice rock throwing – nice to see it’s rubbing off 🙂

  9. Brian says:

    I’m sorry you feel FNF aren’t pulling their weight, although you have used some of the FOI requests I made and am still making in your article on DVVP, https://voiceofthechild.org.uk/cafcass-dvvp-programmes-women/
    This should be DVPP by the way, but we all know what you’re getting at. There are even more astonishing revelations around these courses, but that’s a work in progress.

  10. Chris says:

    Ian Findlay, I find the Voice Of The Child is completely in line with the thoughts and feelings of many parents you claim to represent. Look at the awful changes to family law in the last forty odd years of FNF , it’s happened on your watch! Even this year CMS more powers, parents now even worse off in family court. FNF don’t even support equality in parenting and automatic 50:50 care where possible. How much longer will parents have to put up with your tired, failed appeasement policy which puts you closer to women’s aid than the parents you claim to represent?

  11. hi Brian, good to see you comment on here

    You’re most certainly one of the giants whose shoulders we stand on – and yes we’ve been cataloguing historic FOI requests and featuring them where necessary, partly to ensure that they see the light of day but also to fill in the gaps where our knowledge and experience is lacking. An awful lot of people including the team here are very grateful for the work you personally have been doing for some time now, most especially lately with DVPP.

    We have a lot of respect for FnF and what they’ve been doing at a grass roots level – but keeping all of our heads under a parapet and waiting for someone else to lead the bayonet charge (to quote one of your colleagues) is not, to our minds at least, a strategy for long term success. We have made no secret of that.

    And let us be clear: there are other organisations who, far from sitting idly by, have been extremely active pushing their flawed data and “research” down Government’s throat, actively lobbying for their own self-serving interests and against the actual interests of children. Nobody could accuse FnF of that: the opposite yes, but at least FnF have always, so far as we can see, behaved honourably if a bit too meekly for our tastes.

    As Paul himself pointed out to us recently – “somebody needs to throw the occasional rock and it may as well be you”

    PS We’re more than happy to identify you directly and credit you correctly against any FOI requests that you’ve made that our team reference if you feel that would be appropriate. It wasn’t for us to out you publicly as a researcher.

    and grab one of us on facebook or through the contact page – working together we’ll achieve far more.

  12. Padrestevie says:

    Mandatory training sounds like a wonderful idea but lets look at the group of people that any training is aimed at. Firstly, before we even get around to an aptitude for learning and adaptability, the statistics gathered by TVOTC paint a truly shocking picture of the ethos and a lack of professionalism that exists amongst the ranks in CAFCASS. Anthony Douglas had every right to be embarrassed at the disclosures but they should not have come as news because the numbers came from his own organisation. It’s his job to know about what is going on and for 160k a year we are entitled to expect him to.

    Anthony Douglas freely acknowledged that, even after his 13 years of tenure, there were STILL people in his ranks that were dismissive and in denial of the observed phenomenon of PA. This was a truly spellbinding admission about something that is not merely some etherial concept or idea, that people are free to formulate an opinion on or believe in or not. No, we are actually talking about judicial FINDINGS based upon a critical evaluation of EVIDENCE and the first hand or reported observations of the families involved. We are also talking about graduates in a ‘science’ whom one would expect to be conversant with the appraisal and assimilation of evidence and the functioning of the legal system they provide ‘expert’ advice to. Some of the judgments confirm that parents have been alienated and children have been emotionally abused etc. Yet, after 13 years in post Douglas admitted that there are still subordinate Cafcass workers, who will be writing section 7 reports, that are sometimes determinative of whether a child will ever see a parent again, that refuse to believe the findings of the judiciary. It beggars belief that anyone should admit that having had 13 years to do their job and root out any bad apples. How many childhoods have been ruined through such crass fanaticism, stupidity and an abject refusal to accept judicial findings? How many children have been deprived a relationship with a decent and loving parent because of it?

    The words of Munby P provide a stark reminder of the power and responsibility of judges in the family court. The professionalism and fairness of people preparing reports for court is normally taken for granted. However, Douglas’s admission means that, in some cases, trust has been misplaced. In Re C, a moving case involving the prospective adoption of a little girl taken into care as a result of child protection proceedings, Munby J observed:
    ‘…it must never be forgotten that, with the State’s abandonment of the right to impose capital sentences, orders of the kind which judges of this Division are typically invited to make in public law proceedings are amongst the most drastic that any judge in any jurisdiction is ever empowered to make.’
    Let us also not forget that the reports of CAFCASS officers are often determinative of judicial decisions in the private law sphere and that in the case of an alienated parent this can also amount to the PERMANENT severance of a parent child relationship i.e. since the abolition of the death penalty one of the most drastic orders a judge in any jurisdiction can make. Are the workers that Anthony Douglas referred to even fit for this responsibility?

    TVOTC FOI data and Anthony Douglas’s frank but startling admission, amounting to a lack of leadership and effective management, paint a bleak picture of life behind the scenes of the UK’s largest employer of social workers. It also discloses a degree of fanaticism and lack of critical thinking skills amongst some staff that is evangelistic in its fervour and denial of factual matter. Sadly, besides undermining Douglas’s credability, these attitudes also undermine the judicial process and thereby the rule of law. What other evidence do they regard as optional when compiling reports? Are individuals that are so radicalised as to be unaccepting of judicial findings ever likely to be capable of accepting and applying training that possibly does not conform with personally held and whacky belief systems?

    Before, running away with the idea that a bit of training will make everything fine it would be a good idea to take a deep breath and survey the landscape with both eyes open.

    Before clapping like seals it would also be a good idea to think for a moment about what Anthony Douglas actually said.

  13. Ally says:

    When FNF stop their personal fight with the Woodalls, having clearly sided with Sue Whitcombe, far more will be achieved. Both Sue & Woodalls have a similar passion for helping families and children beset by PA. But as long as they fight alone, in fact fight eacj other, they’ll never conquer it fully. A common voice with all experts working together would achieve far, far more. FNF are only fueling this dispute & should instead be acting as the olive branch to resolve it. It leaves a bitter taste when Paul Apreda is putting Sue on a pedestal.

  14. Terrence White says:

    I’m OK for FNF to run close to Cafcass to pat them on the back and softly whisper in their ears, whilst organisations such as Voice of the Child brandish the pitchforks.
    We have official recognition of the phenomenon, as much like pulling teeth as it has been, and as qualified and weak as that recognition is, but its there now and the inertia is broken. Its about steering now….

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