On 29 April the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 received Royal Assent. The Ministry of Justice have provided draft statutory guidance in support of the legislation. There is now a Home Office consultation enabling you to input to the guidance up to 11:45pm on Tuesday 14th September. Have your say!
FNF will be making an official submission. However, having many individual responses is important, ideally with your own experience.
The objective of the guidance is to assist in identification of domestic abuse, to provide safeguarding guidance, support for victims and improve institutional responses with best practice and standards.
There is much in the guidance that is helpful, but there are some omissions and risks.
We draw your attention in particular to the following points, that you may wish to consider making from your personal experience:
- Alienating behaviours. At point 57, there is a reference to: '...alienating behaviours, including invidious drip feeding of negative views to a child by one parent about the other parent, or any attempt by one parent to frustrate or limit the child’s contact with the other parent, other than for reasons based on concern about the risk to that child'
Many of our service users will be pleased to see this inclusion, however, there are pressure groups that do not share our understanding of the issue who are campaigning to have this removed. It is therefore likely to be helpful for you to provide a reason why you welcome this inclusion with a brief account of your personal experience of this issue, the effect it has had on your children and you and your family. Your comments on this will fit best in the question relating to Chapter 2 - ‘Understanding Domestic Abuse’.
- Specialist training relating to family separation and parental alienation could be proposed for authorities working with separating parents to make sure that they have an understanding of how negative views affect a child, whose expressed views may not reflect their true feelings. It is also worth training agencies dealing with unsubstantiated allegations to make referrals to court or specialist support services for guidance (we have heard, for example, of police telling accused parents that they cannot see their children until their lengthy investigations are completed, when in fact safe interim arrangements may be possible). This might fit best in response to the question relating to Chapter 4 - ‘Agency Response to Domestic Abuse’.
- Early intervention might be suggested when children appear to be exposed to negative views about a parent e.g. urgent hearings in family courts, support of specialists/experts with appropriate training. This too might fit best in response to the question relating to Chapter 4 - ‘Agency Response to Domestic Abuse’.
- Threats to weaponise children and their access to parents e.g. of frustration of parenting time, if a parent leaves, does not pay extra money, introduced a new partner to the child(ren), etc. This might fit in relation to the question about Chapter 2 – ‘Understanding Domestic Abuse’ and Chapter 3 - ‘Impact on Victims’.
- Child-appropriate timescales and interim arrangements. Where there are allegations of domestic abuse, early investigation to ascertain whether the allegations are true or relevant so that the child-parent relationship is restored on a child-appropriate timescale, with interim arrangements always considered where that is not possible e.g. supervised visitation for children. This would fit under the question on Chapter 4 - ‘Agency Response to Domestic Abuse’ and Chapter 5 - ‘Working Together to Tackle Domestic Abuse’. It could also be covered in Chapter 3 – ‘Impact on Victims’ as neither parents or children should experience prolonged abuse due to tardiness of family courts, police or other service providers that need to be resourced in a way that avoids this. Again, explain your experience and the effect it had on your children, you and your relationship with your children.
- Domestic Abuse Perpetrator Programmes (DAPPs) for women. Point 437 of the guidance suggests Cafcass approved DAPPs designed to intervene to change the behaviour of those who are abusive. However, there are currently no DAPPs at all for perpetrators who are women. If you have been or are in a relationship where the abuse is by a woman, please explain this in your response and highlight this deficiency. This would fit well under the question relating to Chapter 5 - ‘Working Together to Tackle Domestic Abuse’ and Chapter 6 (‘Commissioning Response to Domestic Abuse’.
- Support referrals to FNF. You may also wish to suggest that Annex A, that includes a list of organisations that provide support for victims, should also include Families Need Fathers for support where children are weaponised or false allegations against parents are being made. This could fit into the section relating to Chapter 5 – ‘Working Together to Tackle Domestic Abuse’ and Chapter 6 – ‘Commissioning Response to Domestic Abuse’.
What do you think?
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