Our Reply to Anthony Douglas, CEO, Cafcass

Dear Mr Douglas,

Thank you very much for your prompt response to our recent letter acknowledging that you will now take on board our points as part of the reform process.

However, unfortunately you haven’t addressed any of our concerns. While we again appreciate your reiteration that “we recognise parental alienation,” you haven’t explained why:

  • There is no evidence of this on the front-line, where your employees are contradicting you.
  • It is taking so long to engage your staff with this, re-train and re-calibrate the culture and practices there.
  • It is taking so long to develop the measures to combat parental alienation.
  • Shared care isn’t recommended in the majority of cases.
  • There has been no mention of re-unification of alienated parents with their children
  • There are no target change dates and milestones.

You may well have noticed that our 21 point document has started to circulate around social media, including Linkedin, where the issue is attracting the attention of a number of media contacts as well as organisational change and leadership commentators and experts.

As we stated in our letter, enough is enough.

We are aware of your own personal background so know that you will be able to appreciate the incredible distress this issue is causing a great many people.

With that in mind can we please ask you to expand on your generalised statements about the assessment framework and provide very concerned parents with more clarity and reassurances about the other change pathways and measures you alluded to in your press releases last year?

Given the number of people involved and scale of this growing issue, this is every bit as serious an issue for Cafcass as similar challenges presented to CEOs of organisations of a similar size; not least the Windrush scandal at the Home Office, VW’s emissions problems or even the culture change issues at Carillion. Arguably, parental alienation affects many more people, especially children.

The fact there is a plethora of evidence that this form of abuse has such a lasting negative impact on both the short and long term mental health of the effected children should make the urgency of any reforms that much more a priority for the numerous stakeholders/agents of change involved. There are also detrimental effects on the mental health of the targeted families. We are proud of our gender neutral stance, however with 97% of residencies being given to mothers by the Family Court in the UK, (Kielty, S., University of East Anglia, 2006) this forces those fathers that don’t get granted residency  into the highest risk group within the UK for suicide rates.

We can count amongst our numbers several well-respected leadership and change consultants who have worked with director’s general of senior government departments, including the Cabinet Office. They are appalled by the lack of apparent urgency, absence of collective responsibility and clear disconnect between your enlightened view and front line service user experience. Look at what Starbucks has just achieved on the back of a single race-related incident, having mobilised mass training and communication in under a month? Yet they are only entrusted to sell coffee, not influence children’s lives and their profit margins are considerably less than the money spent in Family Court, daily.

Please don’t take this as negativity or hostility on our behalf. We want to do all we can to help you bring about expedient change. But we do hope you can appreciate the seriousness of our concerns, the extent of our desperation and the strength of will to resolve the most important issue we all face, the future of our relationships with our children.

This will in part be decided by your next actions.

We trust you are able to reply with reassuring specifics about what you as CEO of Cafcass and your leadership team and board will deliver this year and when we can expect to see positive change in the practice of your front line staff.

We look forward to your response, ideally within the next seven days.

Yours sincerely,

Peace Not Pas

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