The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) currently sees around 100,000 children each year.
CAFCASS' welfare reports hold a lot of sway in the Family Courts as judges often follow the recommendations as regard residence and contact contained within them.
Currently CAFCASS Children and Family reporters are not accountable for the contents of their reports under CAFCASS' Complaints Policy. Their reports go into the courts as the finished article. The methodology of CAFCASS reports are often suspect. CAFCASS officers frequently make medical comments in their reports yet they are not medically trained.
How they gather their information and the interpretations they put on it is open to question. CAFCASS officers see the participants of Family Law Proceedings for only a limited time yet they make recommendations which have far reaching consequences.
Parties to Family Law Proceedings should be given the CAFCASS report in draft form pre-trial so that they can then question the content of it with the report's author and they should be able to make a complaint against the content of it. CAFCASS officers are only human they can make mistakes. At the moment CAFCASS' Complaints Policy rules out the prospect of human error.
There is a growing frustration with the operation of the Family Courts. Too often CAFCASS fuels conflict in the Family Courts. It would serve as a good quality control measure if parties to Family Law cases could complain about the content of CAFCASS reports. CAFCASS would gain real feedback about the quality of its service if it allowed complaints about the contents of its reports.
I am a Key Stakeholder in CAFCASS but it is not listening to my concerns about its Complaints Policy. CAFCASS currently excludes about 50% of all complaints it gets because they are about the content of its reports and not the conduct of its officers. Anthony Douglas the Chief Executive of CAFCASS is firmly entrenched behind CAFCASS' Complaints Policy and it will require legislation for him to budge.
There is hidden horror in the Family Courts. CAFCASS should be subject to the most vigorous inspections. Sadly CAFCASS does not accept that its methodology for constructing welfare reports could be suspect.
Too often false allegations are taken by CAFCASS officers as the truth and are include in their reports as facts. CAFCASS officers should not be immune to questions about the content of their reports. The Family Courts are supposed to be informal yet they are often a bear pit.
CAFCASS owes a duty to our children to be more open. Currently CAFCASS officers are known as the untouchables. There is an urgent need for reform in the Family Courts.
It is wrong that there is often open discrimination against fathers in particular by CAFCASS officers. Too many children lose contact with their non-resident parents because of CAFCASS reports. CAFCASS must engage with its consumers more if it is to progress to being a modern service with the welfare of children at its heart.
By Brian Hitchcock
Editors Note - Maybe CAFCASS should change its name to KAFKASS