Cafcass, Domestic Abuse, and Women’s Aid

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Cafcass held an Open Board Meeting in June 2016. The minutes of that meeting are available online here:
https://www.cafcass.gov.uk/media/295991/minutes_of_the_board_meeting_9_june_2016.pdf

The Director of Strategy and Rebecca Dale, Corporate Support Officer presented the report on the Domestic Violence policy and training materials used in Cafcass. The paper details developments in Cafcass services to children, families and courts following referrals or allegations about domestic abuse.

 

An internal audit of Cafcass approach to domestic abuse is underway. The audit is testing current policies and recommendations in a sample of 150 cases involving Cafcass where domestic abuse is a feature. The audit will provide an indication of the merit of Cafcass’ approach ‘on the ground’ and of the ways this might be strengthened throug

 

To further drive our understanding of the complexities surrounding domestic abuse, Cafcass is working with Women’s Aid on a research project in 2016 to review Cafcass case files and examine the factors within cases involving allegations of domestic abuse and how the courts respond to these concerns. The study will have a quantitative and qualitative element to provide a nuanced understanding of this complex area. The Board was supportive of the research currently underway with Women’s Aid.

 

The Board discussed the issue of men as victims of domestic abuse and cases of domestic abuse in same sex relationships. Cafcass training for frontline staff is in regards to domestic abuse in relationships and does not place a sole focus on women as victims. Cafcass also works with MensAid and other representative organisations on the issue of domestic abuse committed against men.

 

The Board noted the review of domestic abuse and the family courts conducted by the APPG on Domestic Violence and Women’s Aid report which was produced following the review. The report made seven recommendations, two of which were to Cafcass which were as follows:

 

  • To receive specialist face-to-face training on all aspects of domestic abuse – particularly coercive and controlling behaviour, the frequency and nature of postseparation abuse, and the impact of domestic abuse on children, on parenting and on the mother-child relationship (recommendation 5).
  • To ensure expert safety and risk assessments in child contact cases are carried out where there is an abusive parent involved; they must be conducted by a dedicated domestic abuse practitioner who works for an agency accredited to nationally recognised standards for responding to domestic abuse (recommendation 6).

 

Cafcass will produce its own response to the report and to the recommendations given by Women’s Aid. The Board will also keep sight of the issue of domestic abuse.

A copy of that meeting’s minutes are also available here:
minutes_of_the_board_meeting_9_june_2016

It is interesting to compare the commentary from this meeting with the research we have done on Cafcass and DVVP Programmes for Women and how Cafcass do not have pathways or programmes for Male victims of domestic violence or domestic abuse

It is also worth comparing this in context with the gender-biased questions in the Cafcass tool: Private Law Assessment of coercive control used to establish whether coercive control exists in a relationship.

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