Cafcass Taking Parental Alienation Seriously At Last

Nov 14 2017

Cafcass heeds FNF’s call for mandatory training of all its case workers in Parental Alienation

14th November 2017 - for immediate release

Families Need Fathers welcomes a new commitment by Cafcass (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) to introduce mandatory training in Parental Alienation among its front line caseworkers.

The commitment follows the revelation at a Parental Alienation conference organised by Families Need Fathers last month that only a minute percentage of Cafcass had completed its online training webinar on Parental Alienation.

Sarah Parsons, Assistant Director of Cafcass and its ‘Principal Social Worker’ told FNF yesterday that further guidelines on accurately identifying what is happening in a case and making appropriate interventions is being developed, will be mandatory for all case workers and will be incorporated into their Operating Framework. Cases will be classified as ‘mild, moderate or severe’, she said, with appropriate responses developed. Stakeholders will be consulted over the next three months. The guidance is being developed in consultation with leading UK and international experts in the field.

Jerry Karlin, Chairman and managing trustee of the charity, Families Need Fathers, said, “This is very welcome news and we trust a measure of Cafcass’s good faith in this area. Parental Alienation is identified as the single biggest issue among those who come to FNF seeking help.

The demonising of a parent, usually by the one with whom the child lives, has long been recognised as damaging the child not only at the time of separation but reaching into his or her adult life. It is not ‘normal’. We have pressed for many years for Cafcass and others involved in the family law process to inform themselves of the many faces of parental alienation but also stiffen their sinews in dealing with it.”

There will be a debate in Westminster tomorrow (November 15th 2017) Details (see here).


Background for editors

Following a series of meetings by FNF with Cafcass executives and a powerful discussion on the Victoria Derbyshire programme in November 2016 (see here), some glimmers of hope emerged when Anthony Douglas CBE, Chief Executive of the Children Families and Courts Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass), recognised parental alienation as child abuse as was reported in The Telegraph. See here.

At a parental alienation conference organised by Families Need Fathers (FNF) Central London Branch last month, Mr Douglas spoke frankly of his personal experience of alienation. However, an attendee highlighted that a Freedom of Information Request had revealed that not even 5% of Cafcass staff attended a recent in-house webinar on the subject. FNF called for mandatory training of all case workers (see here).

The ‘dialogue’, intended to enable attendees and a panel of experts to explore how children’s interests can be better met was sponsored by Dr Sarah Woolaston MP. It was arranged by on-line organisation OnlyMums and OnlyDads with the theme on ‘Family Law on Trial - The System’s Failure to Protect Children From Harm’. The audience included academics, social workers, mediators, lawyers, the Ministry of Justice, police and representatives of stakeholder groups representing mums and dads.

The distinguished panel included:

  • Sir James Munby – President of the Family Division
  • Norman Hartnell, Managing Director, The Family Law Company by Hartnell Chanot
  • Tina Miller, Professor of Sociology, Oxford Brookes University
  • Sarah Parons, Assistant Director, Cafcass
  • Elizabeth Coe, CEO NACCC
  • Dr Damian McCann, Head of Development and Learning, Tavistock Relationships
  • Joanne Edwards, Partner & Mediator, Head of Family, Forsters LLP (who chaired)

Norman Hartnell and Families Need Fathers contributed to the debate online with a range of suggested solutions to current shortcomings in family justice (see here and here), not least damaging delays in addressing issues that would not be entertained if they involved other forms of harm. A poll of attendees of their views on broadening the definition of ‘harm’ in Practice Direction PD12J (guidance from the President) to include unjustified withholding of contact to non-resident parents was overwhelmingly supported by those present. Early intervention and the carrying out of a ‘triage’ within a week of court application where ‘harm’ is alleged to avoid delay that is at the root of some of the problems was also overwhelmingly supported. Sir James Munby said he was ‘astonished’ that in 2017 we were still talking about ‘triage’ something that ‘seems obvious’ to ensuring that the child’s interests always prevail.

For comment, case studies or information please contact: or call on 0300 0300 110.

Families Need Fathers - because both parents matter