If you’ve been reading our site you will no doubt be forming a view of the competence of CAFCASS and their ability to advise the courts on a child’s best interest.
But, has it always been this bad; has CAFCASS always been unfit for purpose or is this a new phenomenon? What about family law in general, do you think it’s in need of radical reform?
A central theme of what we think here at Voice of the Child is that “Children Deserve Better“. The bureaucratic machinery surrounding the Family Justice systems are antiquated and do not serve children’s needs. When this is then compounded by other state interference following the trauma of family breakdown the results are made exponentially worse for the children involved.
Words cost nothing
There have been efforts attempting to bring positive change in Family Justice and other areas of statutory influence in post separated children’s lives for decades.
Despite this pressure, politicians and others who are in a position to bring decisive and positive change have failed to improve the situation for children and separated parents alike.
Of course, MP’s are elected and so, if you don’t like what they have to say or, you disagree with the actions they take then we have the ability to vote them out at the subsequent general election.
As an electorate, we have become far too accepting of being misled or lied to by those we elect to serve us and our children. We all have a right to expect those holding public office to be truthful when outlining their beliefs and opinions.
It is only then that, as the electorate we can assess who is best suited to represent us in Parliament.
Words, after all, cost nothing but the actions that follow bring the credibility and reality to the outlined beliefs.
Back in time to 2004
Ladies and Gentlemen, the family is back at the heart of the Conservative Party
Theresa May, 2004
The above quote is taken from a speech given by Theresa May at the 2004 Conservative Party Conference. At that time, she was the Shadow Secretary of State for Family. During this speech Mrs May outlined a number of opinions that we think are just as relevant today as they were back then. Of course, we have had 13 years of Government since that time and little has changed “on the ground” with respect to the structures that were so derided in the speech by the incumbent Prime Minister.
What did Mrs May have to say about The Children Act?
When we passed the Children Act, we wanted to make it easier for parents to share in their children’s upbringing after divorce.
The Act had good intentions but sadly it hasn’t always worked well.
We would agree that the Children Act is in need of a wide ranging reform. A focus on the children beyond the woolly checklist in Section 1(3) which is too often open to subjective interpretation leading to outcomes that do not serve children’s interests in the best possible way.
Normal parents are being prevented from caring for their children. In some cases prevented from seeing their children at all.
We believe that the best parent is both parents.
This was a very encouraging statement to read. In the next part of the speech, Mrs May made a commitment:
That is why, in my first month in Government, I will publish a Bill to give a presumption of co- parenting and a right for both parents to be involved in bringing up their children, when couples separate.
We will ensure that the law serves the best interests of the child – and children deserve to see both parents.
The children are still waiting and no such Bill was ever tabled despite the evidence for children needing both parents being stronger than ever.
the biggest mistake in family policy was Labour’s decision to set up ‘CAFCASS’ – the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service.
Not everyone here will have come across CAFCASS. If so, I hope you never will.
Theresa May, talking about CAFCASS
She went on to give criticism regarding CAFCASS record keeping (which has not improved much over the past 13 years):
Amazingly no records on how much contact it allows.
We wrote a piece about CAFCASS record keeping and outcomes which gives a picture of the state today. It makes depressing reading.
On the guidance given to Family Court Advisors she said:
CAFCASS has no guidelines about allowing proper contact with both parents.
Mrs May then made reference to the travesty that is (and continues to be) the Family Courts. She referred to a man who had been to 81 court hearings just to see his children; or the man who was being “investigated” by CAFCASS for “buying his daughter toys”. She was clearly not a supporter of CAFCASS. So, what was the proposed action to deal with the organisation?
It is a bureaucratic shambles, it is deeply unjust and it is letting families down.
Ladies and Gentlemen it is time for Action.
That is why in my first week in office, I will publish proposals to abolish CAFCASS and replace it with a mediation service.
Where are we now?
That’s 2 promises in the same speech, yet, despite the 13 years that elapsed since, there is no parenting presumption in law and CAFCASS continues to be a bureaucratic shambles, lacking the skills, training and professionalism to carry out their role. Perhaps now that Mrs May holds the highest political office in the land she would like to reflect on and keep the promises she made 13 years ago.
Better late than never, or, perhaps they were just words….
You can read the full speech here.
If that link breaks for any reason you can read a PDF capture of that page that we’ve saved here: Theresa_May_SayIt.PDF
Please let us know what you think of this and other articles in the comments.
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.