FLINT logo
Families Link International
Tel:0781 886 1724
home | issues | policies | family groups | courts | court reporters | research | law | contacts | donations | Useful Quotes |

CAFFCASS - complaint procedure

January 12th 2005

Submission from Family Links International (FLINT):

CAFCASS claims to put children and young people first.

For this ever to happen CAFCASS must have a complaint procedure based on Dept of health statutory guidelines set up for the Statutory bodies in child protection. CAFCASS MUST not investigate child protection concerns without use of this vast considered knowledge procedure and guidance.

Independent and impartial research must be used and this is not the case on the current strategies. There is no understanding of the harm caused to children by parents suffering with post-partum disorders, emotional instability, personality disorders or the effects of parental alienation syndrome.

Involvement of NAPO is of concern given their anti-sexism policy and strategies encouraged by CAFCASS staff which amount to conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and inspire gender hatred and hatred of homosexuals and women.

NAPO (National Association of Probation Officers) asks their officers to collude with the mother as all women suffer abuse in the Patriarchal society, to use the Family Court to help women make decisions about their children, have anti-male statements on domestic violence, provide anti-heterosexual training to their officers and are plainly biased against men, fathers and heterosexuality.

CAFCASS have this statement in their principles;
• Diversity and equality of opportunity will be valued and promoted through anti-discriminatory practice.

which may lead a practitioner to believe they can provide biased and/ or inaccurate reports pursuant to the NAPO anti-sexism policy.

Our staff work in family proceedings in the courts in England and, under Section 12(1) of the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000, our purpose is

• safeguard and promote the welfare of the child;
• give advice to any Court about any application made to it in family
• proceedings;
• arrange for children to be represented;
• provide information, advice and support for children and their families.

Advice given must be independent and impartial, not follow NAPO antisexism policies and any CAFCASS officer who does so should be sacked immediately and have all their cases reviewed.

Training urgently needs to be implemented as the same anti-father and anti-family officers of Family Court Welfare Service have simply been rebadged. CAFCASS must agree to have all meetings independently recorded by the Service user.

Complainants should be made aware they may take a judicial review against CAFCASS for their decision making process as being a public Authority they are obliged by law to apply the Wednesbury Principles and HRA 1998.

Further they should also be made aware and the CAFCASS officer templates amended so that CAFCASS officers know that anything which they believe to be untrue or may be untrue in their reports is Perjury and a criminal offence as they are written under an Act of parliament.

Further, it is contrary to the Data Protection Act to have on record inaccurate and/ or misleading data.

The standards and principles given are wholly insufficient, given our experience of interviews with CAFCASS officers not reflecting what is put in the report and often misleading, untrue and hostile statements made to bolsters a mother’s case and denigrate the father.

CAFCASS should have procedures and guidelines as detailed and mandatory as the Statutory bodies for child protection if they are to investigate child protection issues.

Social work/ feminist theories and political correctness do not have a place in matters relating to the protection of children. CAFCASS are often guilty of making allegations of abuse and/ or violence based on one persons words.

Independent persons need to be genuinely independent and impartial with substantial knowledge of proper research if any complaint is to be taken seriously and the findings used to inform current practice which at present is harming families.

There is no definition of the best interests of the child. A best possible service without this and cannot be given when CAFCASS regularly provide biased reports and use the excuse of ‘’the best interests of the child’’ or the ‘’child’s welfare’’ for their actions.

There is no definition of how the line manager determines whether or not to register a complaint. This use of discretion should not be permitted given that serious complaints having a bearing on a child’s future may be refused for no good reason. There should not be this leeway without fixed parameters for refusal. Again these decisions may be susceptible to judicial review.

Any exercise of discretion must be a real exercise of discretion. If in the statute conferring the discretion, there is to be found, expressly or by implication, matters to which the Authorities exercising the discretion ought to have regard, then in exercising the discretion, they must have regard to those matters. Conversely if the nature of the subject matter and the general interpretation of the Act make it clear that certain matters would not be germane to the matter in question, they must disregard those matters.

Expressions have been used in cases where the powers of the Local Authorities came to be considered in relation to the sort of thing that may give rise to interference by the Court. Bad faith, dishonesty those of course stand by themselves – unreasonableness, attention given to extraneous circumstances, disregard of public policy and things like that have all been referred to as being matters which are relevant for consideration. In this case the Authorities have been dishonest, refused to take into account relevant evidence and committed crimes of perjury and perversion of the course of justice.

Problem-solving and Investigation are confusing since both involve an investigation of the complaint. If the complaint has been investigated in stage two why is it re-investigated and what are the differences between each stage of investigation. This is not at all clear to the complainant.

Investigations at stage two, three and four must be by an outside body. Totally independent of CAFCASS and not funded by them, and able to make any changes and/ or criticisms publicly and forthrightly without fear or favour.

We have evidence of CAFCASS officers knowingly and deliberately perjuring themselves. Without training and the ability to challenge reports on the knowledge and/ or research used the Complaint procedure may simply act to justify malpractice widely affecting families.

If the complaint procedure cannot be used to challenge a court decision as we cannot change the evidence accepted by a court. The judgement cannot be challenged but the decision making process MUST be open to scrutiny.

‘’In these circumstances we will advise a complainant to consider either making an appeal or making a fresh application to court.’’ This feigns ignorance of the Court where Appeals are limited to wrong in law or so plainly wrong in the use of discretion that no other would make such a finding and fresh applications are already tainted by past decisions. This blocks adequate redress against CAFCASS officers.

• the complaint is outside our timescales

This needs to be amended so that if fresh evidence arises which undermines the base of the report or serious wrong-doing is later discovered the complainant shall have redress.

• the complaint is about a subject access request under the Data
Protection Act 1998

CAFCASS are obliged as much as any other public body to ensure they do not have inaccurate and/ or misleading data held which may influence the report and the Court’s decision this has to be amended before the hearing.

• the matter would be more appropriately considered by another
agency or process; 6.2.

There may be occasions, for instance when there are serious allegations about child protection or domestic violence, when we consider that we have to refer to other agencies through our child protection procedures. This, or an allegation of misconduct, may lead to the complaint procedures being suspended while investigation is undertaken under different procedures.

If child protection or domestic violence issues are to be considered by other agencies, which is only correct given that CAFCASS are not a statutory body for child protection or trained in such matters, then CAFCASS themselves should not report on such matters. This then raises questions regarding the CAFCASS Domestic violence procedures.

11.7. In some instances it may be necessary to inform the complainant that the
complaint cannot be registered until the court proceedings are finished and then
only if it refers to matters that are acceptable in the complaint process and not
within the Court’s jurisdiction.

This may lead to miscarriages of justice. CAFCASS are obliged under the Data Protection Act and Human Rights Act 1998. These complaints MUST be addressed before the hearing.

11.15. No investigation will take place under the complaints procedure where the issues central to the complaint have already been recorded as resolved by CAFCASS at the problem solving stage.

This should not be allowed to the discretion of CAFCASS if the complainant does not agree or if fresh evidence comes up.

Stage 4 – Complaint Process Review
11.21. The review stage focuses on the way in which CAFCASS has responded to the complaint to make sure that it has been correctly conducted and has taken
account of all the complaint issues. It is a paper review of the process and not a
re-hearing of the complaint. 11.22. A Review is undertaken by a CAFCASS Review Board. This consists of a CAFCASS Board member assisted by a Regional Manager ..

This should be an independent and public review of the whole matter - if not CAFCASS can keep their dirty linen hidden. The Family Court Welfare Service rubber stamped investigations by simply stating the stages of investigation had been undertaken without a thought as to what was investigated or how.

11.25. As this is the final stage, there is no further CAFCASS action under the
complaints procedures. The complainant can be advised to contact the
Parliamentary Commission for Administration through their constituency MP if
they remain dissatisfied with the outcome.

Complainants must be advised of their rights at an early stage to take a judicial review or free standing action under the human rights Act 1998 as alternative remedies.

It could be much easier to return the Guardian Ad-litems to their well-trained and independent role in public law cases and scrap CAFCASS. CAFCASS were brought in under the Criminal Justice Act.

Most parents are not criminals and should not allow to have their family relationships determined by ex-probation officers et al, besides, pursuant to Sommerfeld v Germany ECHR neither Social workers or Probation Officers are sufficiently trained or knowledgeable to make reports on contact/ residence. Only the likes of child psychologists are.

Appendix one shows what is likely to happen again without adequate redress:

Appendix one:


FACTS: the need for institutional reform On 13 October 2000 an Independent Review Panel, convened by the Southern Health and Social Services Board, pronounced on a complaint against a Family Court Welfare report. The case involved a separated fathers claim he was prevented from seeing his children. This is the first case ever to go to independent review. The Panel, ruling in the fathers favour on almost every count, officially identified a need for structural reform along lines still officially denied by the Lord Chancellors Department. The facts of Case FPC4/61/98, and the laxity of the welfare report, reflect tens of thousands of similar disputes heard annually in Britains secret family courts.

Many go awry. The father, a London builder now aged 39, cohabited with his partner for seventeen years. They had two children. On 14.11.97 the mother took the children, left for Northern Ireland and stopped all access. The fathers first appointment with a solicitor was on18.11.97; on 6.4.98 at the first NI hearing to see the children, a family court welfare officer was appointed. The officers first attempt to contact the father was by a letter sent on 13.8.98, ten days before the report was due. The father asked for an adjournment. Instead, the officer (without meeting, re-contacting or speaking to the father) filed a report about him. This unseen report, dated 25.8.98, depicted him as (i) habitually violent (ii) a virtual stranger who had hardly seen the mother or their children for a decade. The officer made no provision for the fathers access to his children. The father litigated for another 16 months before first being allowed to see his children, through a two-way mirror under supervision, on 15.12.99.

On 2.9.98 the father lodged a complaint against the FCWS alleging want of care and lack of training. Charges were dismissed in-house on 7.9.98 and again on 23.12.98. The complainants right to Independent Review was agreed on 10.5.99. IMPLICATIONS: unravelling of secret family policy.

Hundreds of similar complaints, identifying the same systems failure and based on the similar facts, have been rejected in Britain by in-house complaints procedures. These official denials create the impending disaster of CAFCASS scheduled to take over the FCWS caseload in 2001. The Lord Chancellors Department and Home Office pretended for so long that their FCWS officers were trained that no time remains to train them. Some 2,000 CAFCASS staff will start work in April 2001applying family law to 70,000 children a year with no indication of how to apply it. The NI report, providing a first glimpse into Britains secret family courts, shows the FCWS legacy of neglect set to continue under CAFCASS. Family policy is compromised on a core issue.

Summary of Recommendations (Northern Ireland only) pp34-35
• The Trust should review training provision on family court welfare work
• The Trust should review its supervision procedures
• The Trust should develop Good Practice Guidelines
. The Trust should revisit and amend their pro forma documentation to include all of the procedures required(p16): The Panel are concerned over this important gap . In not obtaining the [fathers] input the Trust were, in essence, guilty of not acting in the best interests of the children (p27)

The trust should offer an unqualified apology to the [father]
INPOWw 4 Cardross St London W6 ODR 0208 748 1081 Information on Probation Officers in Welfare Work (23.10.00)

Future of the new Family Courts Advisory Service in doubt

The underlying legal issue (should parents be allowed to see their children after divorce or separation) is (i) central to family policy (ii) concerns some 200,000 children a year.

BACKGROUND The fathers original complaint (see over) made two charges: first, that the report wrongly kept him from his children; second, that the error arose from a gross systems failure vitiating Family Court Welfare reports (on which the Family Courts rely) generally. Both charges were made good. The finding undercuts the Lord Chancellors plans for CAFCASS (the Children and Family Courts Advisory Support Service) contained in Sections 11-17 of Jack Straws Criminal Justice Bill. The existing FC WS, condemned in the report, is to be replaced by an agency subject to identical deficit; CAFCASSs structural default is officially admitted prior to launch.

The FCWS/CAFCASS: A Fraud on the Public The FCWS, staffed by 660 criminal probation officers, writes reports on some 35,000 ordinary families caught up in ordinary divorce/separation each year. This bottleneck agency has long been the overlooked prime determinant of family policy.

Family cases are heard in secret. No records are kept of FCWS recommendations or resultant case outcomes. There is no significant right of appeal from the court decision. There is no right to cross-examine the welfare officer if s/he does attend court; the recommendation is nearly always followed. In June 1996 it emerged that no training in family court welfare work was available. Untrained staff from the FCWS, supplemented by a new intake of staff untrained in FCWS work, will coalesce in CAFCASS to form a (pariah) agency devoid of guidance on what sort of recommendations its staff should make. These facts, repeatedly denied in the teeth of the facts by institutions involved as outgoing FCWS management and incoming CAFCASS advisors, are now independently validated. ITS A FACT:

• Lord Irvine said: The pooling of their wide range of experience and considerable expertise will be of great benefit to the family courts. By placing stronger emphasis on professional development of staff, the integrated service will be in a better position to provide improved safeguards for the interests of children (LCD Press Release 199/99).

The first word of a basic training manual on what sort of recommendations CAFCASS should make in what sort of circumstances has neither been written nor commissioned

Failed Exercise in Social Engineering Complaints lodged in Britain against the FCWS were all heard in-house. The first seriously-prosecuted case reached the Inner London Probation Services final appeal process on 16.7.96; the three-man Review Panel, with full knowledge of 19 other committee members (including the President of the Family Division) found against the complainant (i) without reading the file (ii) having refused to obtain access to the file. Hundreds of backup complaints from other parents were similarly despatched, the pattern hidden by lies and misrepresentations to MPs. Dissent, backed by 60 constituency MPs, was litigated through complaints procedures into the Home Office and thence the Lord Chancellors Department, precipitating the Services disbandment announced on 21.2.98 by Geoff Hoon MP.

The policy of official denial offered Whitehall the option of a more-of-the-same successor. The battle centred on training. If no training was provided, existing FCWS management was not at fault - but the future of CAFCASS was jeopardised. But if staff were trained how to do the job right, this would show that the job had always been done wrong, raising questions about a generation of 1,000,000 children whose fates were settled in 500,000 prior reports . The NI report exposes a collusive Civil Service bungle the first magnitude.

NOTES FOR EDITORS 1: SAMPLE EXTRACTS from the REPORT The lack of a full investigation, at the time, into the family situation was, in the opinion of the Panel, unfair to all parties concerned p26

It was, in the opinion of the panel, unacceptable to lodge the report on the same day as the Court hearing as this denied the father opportunity to challenge the contents p26

Poorly trained/untrained/unsupervised staff It is clearthat induction training as specified did not take place p15. Neither case officer nor supervisor had benefit of training in the Children (NI) Order p19

The panel are critical the supervisors line manager [i.e. supervisors supervisor] was apparently uninformed of the detail of the case until it reached the complaint stage p27 Lack of Available Training P31: The Panel discovered evidence of inadequate training given to new staff pB7: Criticisms may be made of the [existing materials] limitations, and gaps identified. Where so, the production of further guidelines and standards, which are research-founded and professionally approved, would be welcomed and embracedpB12: it may be advisable, however, for health and Social services trusts to review their training provision on Family Court Welfare Work, to identify the need for supplementary training and to ensure the dissemination of new research findings pB21: The development of good practice guidelines in relation to family court welfare work may also be advisable, addressing the principles and complexities involved in this area of work. Whether this should include guidelines about levels of contact is a matter for debate at a broader legal, policy and professional level. What should be acknowledged is the emphasis which should be placed on the time and skills required to effectively complete the assessment and mediation process involved in cases of dispute

Routine in-house Attempt at a Cover-Up the time available to the Trust was approximately 3-4 months and not a matter of 17 days as claimed throughout p17 the Trusts procedures were flawed p21

unexplained absence within the Trusts Case file of Court documentation between 20 March 1998 and 28 July 1998 p 22

The Panel are extremely disappointed that [the case supervisor] in his letter to the [complainant] in his letter dated 7.9.98 stated that the trust had no previous knowledge of the request for a court welfare court until they received notice on 10.8.98 p22

The Panel are also critical that the Trust has attempted to shift responsibility for the short timescale onto the Craigavon court p23

The Panel noted that the original reply to the fathers complaint did not carry a reference to independent review as the next stage in the process, nor was it signed by the Chief Executive of the Trust as required p30

Not all the documentation was made readily available to the Panel repeated requests, in writing had to be made before the Trust would release the Case File, in totality, at a late stage in the Panels investigation p30

The Panel are concerned that no offer of a meeting was made between the Trust and the father during the ensuing 6-7 months p30

Handling of the complaint appears to the Panel extremely superficial p31


Prepared by the Independent Review Panel of Southern Health and Social Services Board, Tower Hill, Armagh BT16 9DR (direct line 028 3741 4603) Chairman: A J Spence; 70 pp plus Appendices. The original welfare report on the father was prepared by the Craigavon and Banbridge Community HSS Trust; Chief Executive:Dennis Preston Basic legal/social framework 1. The issue is whether children should be allowed to see their parents after divorce/separation; in contested cases, the legal arbiters are the Family Court Welfare Service and, as from April 2001, the Children and Family Courts Advisory Service.

2. The FCWS was/is staffed by criminal probation officers untrained in family court welfare work; there is no training in what sort of recommendations officers should make. The possibility is that (i) some or most of the last 500,000 recommendations (made behind closed doors) were way out of line (ii) the family courts manufactured a needless generation of one-parent families behind closed doors.
3. A five-year attempted cover-up by the Home Office, Lord Chancellors Department and Family Division means that CAFCASS (successor to the FCWS) is set to open its doors in six months without the first line written on what officers are meant to do in ordinary family cases.

4. The legal framework is that the parent who leaves home becomes a non-resident parent; if contact with children is denied, or set at unreasonably low levels, the NRP can apply under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989. Although the resulting order is retrospectively labelled as in the childs best interests, the case is in fact determined on the say-so of the Family Court Welfare Officer (i.e. a criminal probation officer); the Services unexamined default assumptions routinely produce recommendations marginalizing or excluding the non-resident parent.

5. Some 110,000 applications for contact are made each year; the Service writes full-scale reports on 35,000 families and intervenes at some 44,000 Directions Hearings a year. No records have been kept on a single case. If the officer does not attend court, case law is that the Judge should follow his recommendation; if the officer does attend court, there is no right to cross-examine; the custom is that the judge should follow the officers recommendation even if the officers reasoning is destroyed. Under G v G 1984 there is no significant right of appeal from the judges (i.e. the FCWOs) decision. Background 1996-2000 (see also Future of CAFCASS in Doubt)

From 1996 on, improperly-dismissed complaints in Britain climbed up through FCWS parent bodies, into the Home Office, Home Office Probation Unit, Inspectorate of Probation and the Lord Chancellors Department. All denied (i) default (ii) responsibility. In February 1999, an INPOWw dossier Lives Well Spent identified four highly-placed officials as accountable for the debacle in Britains Family Courts. Within 8 months, in timing with disclosures, three were gone: the Head of the Home Office Probation Unit, the President of the Family Division and the Lord Chancellors Head of Family Policy. Perhaps the most heavily implicated Sir Graham Smith, Her Majestys Chief Inspector of Probation (0207 273 3766) remains at his desk, on the record as ignoring obvious cover-ups by Probation Committees throughout Britain, in particular in Inner London, Cheshire, Cumbria, Dorset, Hampshire, Middlesex, South Glamorgan, Surrey, Somerset and Warwickshire. [INPOWw 4 Cardross St, London W6 ODR 0208 748 1081, 23.10.00]

The interim complaints procedure is a mess since there are no guidelines or set procedures on which to complain, and the old system of fobbing of a complainant by stating that the appropriate place to examine any perceived inaccuracies is in the court setting continues as below:

RE: Your complaint to Mr Hewson concerning Mr George Cribb's 'handling' of
'your' case.

Your E message has been forwarded to me by the executive assistant to the
Assistant Director of Operations CAFCASS (date 2nd February 2003). I note
its contents. The reason why Your E message was forwarded to me is because
complaints in CAFCASS are to be addressed in the first instance at the local
level. That is in accordance with the Complaints (Interim) Procedure, a
copy of which I attach.

The complaint you make relates directly to the way Mr Cribb has conducted
his enquiries in the preparation of Reports for the Courts. Specifically,
you feel that the way you allege he interviewed ******* and **** has led to
a biased judgement against you. You refer to Parental Alienation Syndrome
in support of your position. You allege that CAFCASS discriminates against
fathers. In general terms, each of the points you raise is directly about
the advice that Mr Cribb has filed with the Court. The place in which that
advice and the basis on which it is argued ought to be questioned is in the
Court itself. That is the purpose of the Hearing.

A Family Court Adviser is allocated responsibility for an inquiry. S/he
makes that investigation, files her/his advice, and, if required by either
parties or by the Court itself attends the Hearing prepared to be
cross-examined. The Report and its recommendations are not the 'decision'
or the 'judgement'. Responsibility for that lies solely with the Court.
The Court takes into account the arguments presented by the 'parties', the
law as it stands, and the advice given by the Child and Family Reporter.
'Complaint' against the Court would be an 'appeal' against its judgement.
To take that step you would need legal advice.

I find, then, in accordance with the attached procedure, paragraph 3 that
your complaint is about 'the professional judgement' exercised by Mr Cribb.
In my view Mr Cribb has behaved in accordance with National Standards. The
Court has not found his advice wanting. I fully understand the points you
make but make no comment on their validity or otherwise. It is simple that
they cannot be considered a complaint that could be dealt with other than at
a Court Hearing in the proceedings out of which they emerge.

Yours sincerely

Michael Ravey
Team Manager

The contents on these pages are provided as information only. No responsibility or liability is accepted by or on behalf of FLINT for any errors, omissions, or misleading statements on these pages, or any site to which these pages connect, whether provided by FLINT or by any organisation, company or individual. No mention of any organisation, company or individual, whether on these pages or on other sites to which these pages are linked, shall imply any approval or warranty as to the standing and capability of any such organisations, companies or individuals on the part of FLINT. All rights reserved.