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.
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.