Welcome to our third September issue.
ACTION - The deadline is TODAY AT 11:45pm (Tuesday 14th September) to submit your responses on the draft statutory Guidance on the Domestic Abuse Act.
It need not take more than five minutes if respondents focus on key points. You can respond online using the link HERE.
Having many individual responses is important, ideally with your own experience. You can respond anonymously if you wish and respond with "No" to any of the 12 questions on which you do not have an opinion.
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. The draft guidance refers to '...alienating behaviours, including invidious drip feeding of negative views to a child by one parent about the other parent, or any attempt by one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. It needs to be included/retained as part of the definition of Coercive and Controlling behaviour. Your comments on this will fit best in the question relating to Question 5 'Understanding Domestic Abuse’.
Specialist training relating to family separation and identifying coercive and controlling behaviours that result in alienation should 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 Question 7 - ‘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 Question 7 - ‘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 Question 5 – ‘Understanding Domestic Abuse’ and Question 6- ‘Impact on Victims’. Such threats also need to be included in the definition of coercive control.
Child-appropriate timescales, interim arrangements and the effect of being un-represented where there are allegations of domestic abuse. 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 Question 7 - ‘Agency Response to Domestic Abuse’ and Question 8 - ‘Working Together to Tackle Domestic Abuse’. It could also be covered in Question 6 – ‘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.
You may also wish to comment on your experience of not receiving legal aid as a victim of domestic abuse/coercive and controlling behaviour or to defend yourself in the face of exaggerations or false allegations - particularly if your ex had legal aid on the basis of her/his allegations. Explain not only the effect this had on you, but also the delays to court proceedings as a result of not having representation, the unfairness of the situation and risk of miscarriages of justice. If your ex continued to benefit from state-funded representation once a court determined that the allegations were unfounded or irrelevant, do also comment on that.
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 Question 8 - ‘Working Together to Tackle Domestic Abuse’ and Question 9 (‘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 Question 8 – ‘Working Together to Tackle Domestic Abuse’ and Question 9 – ‘Commissioning Response to Domestic Abuse’.
Further details of the consultation are here.
Thank you for your ongoing support!
With best wishes,
The Team at FNF