2017 – The Beginning of the Beginning

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Estimated reading time: 3 min

What a year!

We started this research project in early 2017 and launched this website in September. In 4 short months of being “online” we now have thousands of visitors reading and sharing our articles and research every month; the genie is finally out of the bottle!

Shall we start with Cafcass?

We unearthed Cafcass’ training records and highlighted their lack of training on parental alienation and emotional abuse. We highlighted their lack of compliance of training or following their own policies and pathways, and we pulled apart their actual training courses to show how inadequate they are.

We discovered that they author their own training, have no independent training providers to speak of, do not consult on training needs or materials, and do not measure compliance with training in their caseloads.

We discovered that Cafcass do not monitor any in-depth outcomes of their cases, that their mechanisms for recording feedback are biased, and that the reports that they provide internally and to their overarching leadership in the Ministry of Justice are flawed and misleading.

We found out that Cafcass social workers don’t have a clue about protecting witnesses or evidence chains, that they almost always operate outside their permitted remits, making recommendations and observations that they’re simply not qualified, or indeed permitted, to do, and yet nobody raises an eyebrow. We discovered that they’re not protected by any Professional Indemnity Insurance, and that Cafcass themselves are reliant on their flawed complaints procedure to protect them. A complaints procedure that has been changed to not record actual complaints. You couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried.

We publicly held the Cafcass CEO Anthony Douglas to account this year at the London Parental Alienation workshop where we forced him to admit on camera that his family court advisors do not do their training, have no respect for him, and in his own words “are too busy” to do their training. This went hand-in-hand with us also uncovering that most FCAs have somehow, despite being “too busy”, managed to do their entire expenses training… every year… As a CEO he is now permanently damaged thanks to our published research into the training he himself organised but that less than 2% of his staff could be bothered to attend.

We obtained a copy of the draft High Conflict Pathway and training documents from Cafcass that have been trialled secretly behind the scenes since 2016 and published these along with an analysis showing how deeply flawed these are, and that they shouldn’t be used as a base for the “new” High Conflict Pathway that Cafcass are proposing.

We published a spotlight on Sarah Parsons, Principle Social Worker for Cafcass who heads up their Training and Development team and whose teams incidentally also have one of the lowest completion rates for their training on emotional harm and abuse.

Our research has been picked up by the leading lights in the Parental Alienation movement, by the BBC, and by MPs, and is now cited in new articles and blogs on the suitability and capacity of Cafcass to promote the welfare of children within the family courts.

We also know of at least 2 court cases in the last 2 months where our research has specifically been used to overturn a flawed no-contact recommendation from Cafcass in the family courts.

If Anthony Douglas and Sarah Parsons can’t get their Cafcass employees to do their training then they should resign; and this is something we’ll be focusing on in 2018. It’s time for them both to go.

Department of Work and Pensions…

At the heart of the disconnect in the family courts post-separation and divorce is the matter of finance and it was right and proper that we also shone a light on the DWP and Child Maintenance Service teams for their part in disrupting family life and the impact that their incompetence has on children.

In 2017 we identified serious issues with the CMS calculations and arrears system including incorrect calculations, false arrears amounts, and a refusal to follow their own procedures. In 2017 we obtained and published a full set of the CMS own internal policies and procedures (now one of the biggest sources of traffic on our website) and our researchers have been signposting both Receiving Parents and Paying Parents to the correct policy or procedure in many online groups set up to help and support parents struggling with the CMS.

We identified the head of the Financial Investigations Unit (Barry Porter) as being an ex-Met police officer with a very dubious past, we lit a spotlight onto the proposed bills for the reform of the CMS (which turns out to be nothing of the sort) and we highlighted the way the legislation on special expenses variations has been twisted through an internal policy of the DWP to spite the will of Parliament.

In 2018 we hope the DWP will again be wearing their Positive Pants. There’s a lot more coming down the pipe for them despite half of our research team switching to focus on our further research into Cafcass, Social Workers, and Local Authority Children’s Services and Safeguarding. The CMS may think we’ve forgotten about them but we haven’t. We’ve only just begun.

Partnerships

In 2017 we forged partnerships with leading researchers and experts in Parental Alienation. In 2018 we will be working with these partners to start to effect real change in the family courts and the systems that surround them. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: these f*ckers have woken some sleeping giants; not just us, but right across the spectrum we’re seeing more and more of the quiet ones stand up and start to ask the same questions and to demand answers.

The game is over: The battle has begun.

See you in 2018.

In a Family Law system designed for combative parents there is no real allowance for the views of children and any understanding of how Family Law ultimately impacts on children most of all.

We speak for the children in Family Law so that, finally, the children have a voice.