Cafcass hits back at 'unfair' claim

COURTS advisory staff today hit back at criticism to insist they are properly trained and know what they are doing.The Children and Family Courts Advisory Support Service (Cafcass) in Ipswich has been accused of employing under qualified staff and destroying families, by angry fathers.

COURTS advisory staff today hit back at criticism to insist they are properly trained and know what they are doing.

The Children and Family Courts Advisory Support Service (Cafcass) in Ipswich has been accused of employing under qualified staff and destroying families, by angry fathers.

It follows a two-day court trial where three people from the Fathers 4 Justice (F4J) protest group painted Cafcass's front door purple. F4J wanted to highlight what members claim to be unfair child custody laws that restrict fathers from seeing their children.

Sarah Ashford, 39, of Goldsmith Close, Bury St Edmunds, Matthew O'Connor, 36, of Water Lane, Cavendish and Shaun O'Connell, 40 of San Diego Road, Gosport, Hampshire, were found guilty of causing criminal damage. The trio had to pay Cafcass £190 compensation and was ordered to pay more than £750 court costs.


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Catherine Dow, communications manager of Cafcass, today said she was pleased with the decision.

She said: "Cafcass welcomes the guilty verdict against the three Fathers 4 Justice members, following the campaign against the Ipswich office and its staff, which included the painting of the front door.

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"Fathers 4 Justice are seeking publicity platforms for their campaign against Cafcass and the family justice system. But that should not include criminal acts.

"In deciding to press criminal charges, we had to consider the intimidation of our staff and the risk of disruption of our services to families and children. These are not 'harmless' incidents.

"Cafcass takes its duty of care towards its staff very seriously and believes the guilty verdict conveys the important message that their publicity stunt was also a criminal act."

During the court case, F4J accused Cafcass of employing under-qualified staff, discriminating against fathers and destroying families.

In a statement, Cafcass said: "Contrary to the group's allegations that Cafcass practitioners are under-trained, our practitioners are qualified in social work with experience of working with children and families in either a social services or family court background.

"Cafcass believes its professional and committed workforce is its greatest asset. The work our practitioners do with families in dispute over contact with their children often takes place in hostile and emotionally-charged circumstances. It is understandable therefore, that parents sometimes do not agree with the decisions taken by the court on residence and contact issues. We would encourage them to follow established complaints procedures if this is the case.

"Far from destroying families as asserted by Fathers 4 Justice, Cafcass plays a role in helping families come to agreement on future arrangements that are in the best interests of their children."

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