A debate in the House of Commons which took place on 18th July, has led to an MP calling for a government review into child welfare body, CAFCASS.
The discussion comes after a petition on website Change.org asking the government to investigate CAFCASS policy, family court transparency and training for child welfare professionals, amassed over 116,000 signatures.
Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley, Jess Phillips, hosted the debate, which looked at ways in which the government could protect victims of domestic abuse in the family courts. Jess chose to focus on the cross examination of alleged victims of domestic violence by alleged and proven domestic abuse offenders and CAFCASS training.
During the discussion, Jess confirmed that she had received 199 pages of testimonials the morning of the debate, which she said contained around 10 to 13 testimonials on each page. She then read some of the testimonials out:
“CAFCASS is not working in the best interests of the children, who are victims of domestic abuse themselves”;
“CAFCASS is enabling the perpetrators of abuse to gain more control”;
“CAFCASS did not talk to my children, who, too, are victims. Their voices were nowhere on the accounts”;
“They think that abusive partners are good dads”;
“They were incompetent, stupid, easily taken in by a manipulative perpetrator and aggressive towards me. One woman couldn’t even be bothered to know my name. They called my 999 call a ‘minor disagreement’ in their official records. They are a complete disgrace”;
“I, too, have had a terrible time with CAFCASS and the family courts. They were more supportive of my abusive ex than actually listening to my kids. Also, when my son made a statement and showed signs of abusive behaviour, they continued to put him through the court and pooh-poohed and belittled everything that we had to say.”
The government’s response to concerns raised by Jess and other MPs was predictably defensive, however the debate is worth a read.
The call to have CAFCASS investigated comes at the end of the debate. Jess sums up the problem in the following way:
“On the issue of CAFCASS workers receiving appropriate training, I say to the Minister that it is not working. There needs to be a Government review of CAFCASS and the way its workers are interacting with victims, as well as of settings where families go for visits.”
Researching Reform spoke with several families about these developments and we only heard one positive story. When we reached out to these families, most were still calling the body by its nickname, CRAPCASS.