In a FOI request around the training Cafcass will be providing to their staff on the new Child Impact Reports Cafcass included this snippet in their response:
In March 2017, Anthony Douglas, Chief Executive of Cafcass, led a live webinar discussion on parental alienation attended by 64 staff members, providing participants with the opportunity to share and discuss their experience of cases featuring alienating behaviours. This included discussion of child impact analysis to set out the evidence base indicating parental alienation.
Cafcass were asked:
“Please provide a copy of this webinar. ”
This webinar was a live discussion and so Cafcass does not have a copy of the webinar to disclose. An audio recording of the webinar discussion was produced however this contains discussion of cases by staff and so contains personal information of staff and service users.
Disclosure is therefore exempt under Section 40 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
“Please confirm how many of the 64 staff members were FCAs.”
33 Family Court Advisers (FCAs) attended the webinar. Please note this figure includes Agency FCAs. The other staff members who attended the webinar included managers and corporate staff.
Please confirm how many staff members have subsequently viewed this webinar.
As the webinar was held live, it is not available for subsequent viewing. However, 59 members of staff have listened to the audio recording.
Please confirm the platform and/or software that you use to distribute and view
Webinars are held live using Skype for Business.
Please provide a list of all webinars provided to your staff members, and viewing
rates, for 2016 and for 2017.
These figures are an insult to children and their families.
How is this in any way an appropriate way to behave for an organisation, tasked with reporting to the courts on the welfare of children, in the best interests of children?
Update October 2017
A researcher has now obtained the breakdown figures, by Cafcass service area, of the viewing and attendance rates for this important webinar hosted by Anthony Douglas. These figures are shown in the table below alongwise the total numbers of FCAs employed within each service area so that you can see the disparity:
|Number at 1st Jan 2017
|FCAs who attended Anthony Douglas Parental Alienation Webinar
|Tyneside and Northumbria
|Durham, Teesside, North Yorkshire, York, Cumbria and Lancashire
|South Yorkshire and Humberside
|Hampshire, The Isle of Wight and Dorset
|Avon, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Thames Valley
|Cornwall, Devon and Somerset
|Cheshire and Merseyside
|Leicestershire, Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire
|Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire
|Birmingham, the Black Country, Shropshire and Worcestershire
|National Business Centre, Coventry, Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire
|Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire
|Greater London (Public Law)
|5 in total for A15a and A15b
|Greater London (Private Law)
|see row above
|Surrey and Sussex
|N/A (Self Employed Contractors)
It should be noted that Cafcass had to correct their initial figures of 64 attendees when they responded to our researcher by saying:
On reviewing these figures our records show that the webinar was attended by only 49 members of staff [EDITOR’S NOTE: and not 64 as they had first said] , 32 of which were FCAs. The figure given in the blog on our website has been corrected.
Why is this important?
Here we have the Chief Executive of Cafcass Anthony Douglas, who has just released an interview saying that Parental Alienation is so serious that it should be considered a form of child abuse and acknowledging that his employees need more training on it, then giving an all-hands webinar on Parental Alienation… but only 2% of his FCAs can be bothered to attend?
In any other organisation this would be seen as a definitive vote of no confidence in the Chief Executive. In any other organisation the Chief Executive would be called upon to resign immediately. In any other organisation there would be a flurry of memos and director level instructions to all employees that they must immediately attend a follow-up webinar or explain themselves.
Time for Anthony Douglas to go
It’s time for Anthony Douglas to go. He needs to be replaced immediately by a Chief Executive who ensures that Cafcass FCAs are fully trained, fully qualified, and fully accountable for their professional standards, their qualifications, and their CPD (continuous professional development).
In a Family Law system designed for combative parents there is no real allowance for the views of children and any understanding of how Family Law ultimately impacts on children most of all.
We speak for the children in Family Law so that, finally, the children have a voice.