Consensus: the CAFCASS way


courtesy of fengergold on flickr

free speech image courtesy of fengergold on flickr

I have been informed today that CAFCASS employees have been forbidden by CAFCASS management to submit their own individual responses to the Family Justice Review. It is one thing to collate individual responses into an organisational response: it is quite another to seek to bar the participation of employees in this review individually. If this report is true it represents a dangerous development. If it is a misunderstanding by staff of a genuine attempt to ensure a well coordinated response it still raises concerns about the effectiveness of communication within CAFCASS. Whilst of course CAFCASS will have real practical difficulty in preventing employees from submitting their own response in anonymised form, the very fact that they may have to do so in a clandestine way (or that they may feel that they have to do so) does not suggest a healthy management culture.

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I  struggle to see how such an approach could be justified – CAFCASS has been the subject of much and varied criticism from diverse stakeholders in the family justice system for some time, and staff morale is known to be low. Suppressing the views of their own staff will not help either of those problems and will do nothing to promote the interests of justice, public confidence in the system, and will not assist in the promotion and safeguarding of the welfare of children. CAFCASS’ main asset is its skilled officers. The Family Justice System is in crisis and facing further crisis as a result of the public spending cuts – crowdsourcing ideas about how we reform our family justice system so that it can survive and renew itself is crucial, and to exclude or sanitise the views of those at the coal face is not ultimately going to be helpful to anyone, including CAFCASS management.

3 thoughts on “Consensus: the CAFCASS way

  1. As a children’s guardian since 1993 and a Cafcass family court advisor since 2001 I am not entirely clear about the guidance given by the organisation in respect of individual contributions to the FJR, but have decided not to make any individual contribution to the review. Experience tells me that to do so would, certainly in my case, place me at risk of heavy handed reprisals by my employer. In fact a part of me tells myself it is foolhardy of me even to contribute to this blog. But surely Article 10 of the HRA – hedged in the way it is that it seems to render itself (like much of the Act) practically useless – might offer me some protection here?

    And my views on the role of Cafcass in the Family Justice System, if the FJR – or anyone else – is interested are more or less as set out in my article “Is there a Need for Cafcass,” published by Nagalro in ‘Seen and Heard, vol 15 Issue 3 2005. Nothing that has happened in the last five years – to Cafcass or to me – has persuaded me to change the conclusion I reached then – on the evidence my learned friends – “that no Cafcass at all would be better.”(page 35)

  2. […] Pink Tape reports that CAFCASS is attempting to impose some sort of code of omerta on its employees by […]

  3. […] process in these circumstances is extremely unfortunate. In light of the fact that there are now reports of CAFCASS banning individual employees from submitting their views to the Family Justice Re… this seems to be more of an endemic problem than an isolated […]

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