The General Social Care Council Conduct Committee has ruled on the alleged misconduct of a CAFCASS Officer who was subject to complaints that he had inappropriately criticised CAFCASS on an internet discussion forum. None of the conduct was found to amount to misconduct as alleged, but CAFCASS did not get off quite so lightly. The GSCC found that the officer had been correct when he had stated that delay was a real problem in CAFCASS and that CAFCASS had put a ‘dishonest spin on the scale of the problems it faced’.
This is not good PR for CAFCASS on several grounds. Not just because of the perception that CAFCASS needs to confront its problems and to be transparent about them if it is to deal with them, rather than adopting a bunker mentality. What the judgment also makes clear is the chilling effect on sensible and appropriate discussion that CAFCASS Management style and policy appears to have in certain cases, and the negative effect such an approach must surely have on staff recruitment, retention and morale. And the individual concerned might reasonably feel that he has been victimised for saying no more than the truth, and for raising legitimate issues for discussion, in part in his capacity as a Trade Union Rep. That he was subjected to a lengthy misconduct 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 Review this seems to be more of an endemic problem than an isolated incident.