Cafcass, the Judiciary, and reports of malpractice

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Background

We know that the Judiciary rely heavily on Cafcass to produce reports to the Courts. This has been covered previously in a number of our previous research posts which include the following posts:

If you, as a service user, object to the contents of a Cafcass report or the way it has been carried out you can use the Cafcass complaints procedure, involve your MP, and escalate this to either the HCPC or the PHSO.

But if you’re a Judge and you’re not happy what can you do?

Judiciary

We know that a number of Judges have made it clear that they are unhappy, either with a Cafcass report or with an individual Cafcass social worker within their judgements but we wanted to know how many Judges had actually escalated a complaint directly to Cafcass.

It seems a sensible question to ask, especially as Cafcass themselves make compliments and feedback from Judges a cornerstone of their annual reporting (NOTE: We can’t find any details of complaints from Judges within Cafcass annual reports) and Cafcass even produce a special feedback form for Judges to use.

What do Cafcass say…?

Would you please inform me of the number of occasions that a Judge sitting in Public or Private Law Family Proceedings has referred malpractice by a Cafcass FCA / Social Worker involved in proceedings to your organisation?

Cafcass responded to say:

Cafcass does not formally records instances where a judge sitting in either Private or Public law proceedings referred malpractice by an FCA to Cafcass.

Judges may raise any concerns or issues in regards to practice via their established liaison routes and protocols with operational managers but these are not formally recorded or logged. Senior operational managers liaise closely with local judges, especially the local Designated Family Judge (DFJ).

Judges may sometimes include reference to Cafcass’ practice and conduct in their judgements

What about complaints from Judges?

Would you please inform me of the number of occasions that a Judge sitting in Public or Private Law Family Proceedings made a complaint to Cafcass for the years 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017?

Cafcass responded:

We have no records of judges sitting in Public or Private Law Family Proceedings making complaints to Cafcass for the years 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017.

This is the same old story we’re encountering throughout Cafcass data management: A failure to record the most basic of data in a way that allows Cafcass to report on it.

Is it intentional? We don’t know for certain but it’s looking that way. Cafcass have a £multi-million ECMS system which has the ability, out of the box, to allow all sorts of data to be stored and reported on, and yet Cafcass are not recording some of the most fundamental (and arguably the most important datasets).

 

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.

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