Cafcass

CAFCASS: is the Child and Families Court Advisory Service. 
Currently CAFCASS will seek to insist and recommend to the Family and other Courts that men address their abusive behaviours towards their wife or female partner by attending and completing a DVPP, a domestic violence perpetrator programme. The only programmes currently recognised by CAFCASS are programmes which are "accredited" by RESPECT.  That is the policy.

CAFCASS are "the children's guardians", charged with looking out for the best interests of the child(ren) in court and family proceedings.
Until 2014 they were part of the Department for Education (DfE). They were then moved to the Ministry of Justice. (MOJ).

RESPECT is a registered charity. It emerged mainly from the Domestic Violence Intervention Project in London (DVIP) which came into existence with the early tolerance of Women's Aid.  In the early days of work with domestic abusers in the UK there were meetings between the parties interested in working with domestic abusers.  Change, the organisation originally led and then researched by Dobash and Dobash, DVIP in London and the Everyman project in London - which later became Ahimsa in Plymouth, were amongst the very early members. The early interventions were mainly copied in from America; Duluth, Emerge (Boston) and Man Alive were the main programmes which were used as models, but mainly Duluth. Together and with others the above called themselves the NPN - the National Practitioners' Network. 

In 2000 Ms Jo Todd, a former employee of DVIP, was elected CEO of RESPECT. Following the disastrous outcomes of the Joseph Rowntree sponsored research in 1998/9 which brought DVIP to within days of closure, but which was saved by an anonymous donation,  she and another young woman, Kate Iwi, co-rewrote DVIP's abuser programme. Ms Todd continues to lead RESPECT, employing mainly ex -DVIP people in senior positions and Ms Iwi, along with Dr Chris Newman, both former (and current?) employees of DVIP went on to deliver training for facilitators via Pai Pact, obviously a training course of which RESPECT (and DVIP) approved. By 2009 the membership of the NPN had become deeply wary of the RESPECT leadership which had essentially become an arm, perhaps mainly the marketing arm, of DVIP.  An internal memo of that time highlighted the discontent of a substantial portion of the membership.  

Trustees of RESPECT overlapped significantly with DVIP and Ahimsa and Change.    

When we sought membership in 2004 the conditions for delivering perpetrator work were that we should extend the length of our programme from 36 hours to 75 hours. There was no evidence for this. The other condition was that we should not deliver mixed gender groups - again there was no evidence against mixed groups, but of course the focus had to be "male power and control" and "patriarchy"  so obviously there was a total "mis-focus" for women.    

DVIP had also had an early interest in contracts with the Probation service. These disappeared in about 2004 when the Probation Service developed and accredited its own IDAP programme, based on and essentially "Duluth". The Probation Servic advertised for and appointed its own "accreditation panel." By about 2011 IDAP had been closed down.  Its ineffectiveness had been rumbled and its resource hungry requirements, costing about £7,250 per place meant that it was unsustainable financially.  

It is not clear from public documents if the DfE appointed RESPECT, or if RESPECT appointed themselves.   

In terms of our type of work with domestic abusers CAFCASS are still "bound to" RESPECT accredited work, policy-wise. The vast majority of that work follows the "Duluth"  format, fundamentally seeking only to "hold men to account" rather than address the individual man's problems and help him to change his behaviours.  Since RESPECT fundamentally chooses to believe that women are as good as being never responsible for domestic violence - and therefore of being domestic abusers - there is "no abuser work" available for women. All women are all seen as victims of men's violence and sent on "The Freedom Programme" - to "free them" from all men's abuse of women!   

Another major effort of the time was to nullify any efforts by RELATE, the major national couple counselling agency, with 75 years at least experience. So under a banner of being potentially dangerous to women national  RELATE's policy was formatted to effectively stop couple counselling because of the inherent "dangers to women". At the time this meant about 50,000 cases per year, about 1/3rd of RELATE's annual customer base, were deemed too risky. No organisation can sustain such a large loss of its client base; one consequence, at least in part, is that many RELATE centres have closed, another consequence is that the Duluth projects that initially started have closed, being unsustainable, a third consequence is that other projects initiated with an understanding of couple relationships have been blocked by national RELATE policies and a fourth consequence has been that the person who mainly encouraged that policy became a trustee of RESPECT when their services were no longer required by RELATE!   

  
In the link below is what the MOJ  itself said about the Duluth programme in 2014.  You'll observe, of course that this evidence emerged before Cafcass and RESPECT  were moved to the MOJ. I can imagine that they have not even read their own research, but be that as it may! 

“Ministry of Justice 2014

Transforming Rehabilitation: a summary of evidence on reducing re-offending (second edition)

"Offending behaviour programmes for domestic violence offenders

The most recent systematic review of US evidence indicates that the Duluth Model appears to have no effect on recidivism.154

However, this review also identified substantial reductions in domestic violence re-offending by offenders who had attended other interventions. These interventions varied widely in their approach (including cognitive behavioural therapy, relationship enhancement and group couples counselling), and the reviewers were therefore unable to make recommendations about specific preferred alternatives to the Duluth Model.”


CAFCASS always want a "DVPP" - a Domestic Violence Perpetrator Programme.   A fundamental tenet of British justice is that you are "innocent until proven guilty."  A "perpetrator" is someone who is guilty of a criminal offence.  In some cases people will have been found guilty. The term "perpetrator" applies. However, very many cases before a family court will not have been found  "guilty", although they may display / have displayed abusive behaviours, and "on the balance of probability" a judge may have chosen to believe a woman's account of her man's abusive behaviour towards her, in which case he is "guilty". For short we could call them "abusers".   ( But of course, someone who is charged and goes to court and is found "not guilty", is not necessarily "innocent".)   

Our problems with RESPECT

Problem No 1. We work with female abusers, too. We've done so over the last 20 odd years, more than 100 of them.  In our format there have been no particular difficulties with this.   But the fact is frowned upon by RESPECT because it runs against the policy of "Preventing Violence to women and girls", more recently changed by Women's Aid to "women and children" as the unwarranted discrimination against boys gained ground.  Obviously Cafcass tacitly agrees with this!

Problem no 2. RESPECT decreed (and therefore CAFCASS tacitly agrees) - that the amount of work required is 9 months worth. There is no evidence for this and there never was. In fact virtually all the meta analytic studies that focused upon the Duluth pro-feminist Domestic Violence Education programmes found no long term reduction in intimate partner violence!  Time-wise RESPECT claimed:  "Less than this is dangerous". More than 75%  of the men that attend their programmes, DVIP for example, drop out -  therefore their work, by their own definition  is "dangerous" for those 75% plus of men!   But of course dropping out is the men's fault, not the fault of the programmes RESPECT requires. To give a contrast more than 90% of the men that start our work complete all of our work, and 95% plus of women! 

RESPECT's idea was and is that by working with both the female victim and the male perpetrator that they were going to somehow supervise a relationship. Of course what they achieve by trying to insist that both parties work with the organisation in fact undermines the trust of both the abusive man and the victim partner. Neither the police nor social services with all the resources available to them are able supervise a relationship, try as they might! Meanwhile court cases are now being required to be completed through a court process of 26 weeks  - so for RESPECT  and CAFCASS the implication is that "more intensive" work is required!  

We realised from the outset in 1994 that "intensity and focus" are much more important facets of behaviour changing work than length. A programme has to be "do-able".   Men who by and large work hard to provide for their families cannot take endless time off work - it costs money! - They cannot spend large amounts of time travelling to programmes only to get there and find the programme is not running or finding themselves thrown off the programme!  
Our programmes engage with clients for 36 hours plus, intensively, and with more time, as required. In some few cases very much more time and in other cases very little or even no extra time. 
  
Problem No 3  RESPECT ( and therefore CAFCASS) wants to view all domestic violence as part of the "patriarchal" structures which disadvantage women. The fact of Lesbian relationships containing higher levels of domestic violence than heterosexual relationships is ignored. The facts of female violence to men representing somewhere between 20% and 40% of domestic violence is ignored. The consequent dangers to children, by choosing to ignore those potential problems and dangers, are very largely ignored. Child deaths, at the hands of whom? are carefully focused out of the statistics.

Same-sex violence of course requires Women's Aid to produce posters of male on male same sex violence when in fact as far as the statistics are known female on female violence is the most prevalent form of intimate partner violence.
 
A focus for RESPECT (and therefore CAFCASS) is that a programme must address  "male priviledge". The facts that most behaviour in couple relationships is driven by emotion, rather than being "instrumental violence"  is simply overlooked.     

Problem No 4  Even when the evidence of ineffectiveness of RESPECT's preferred DULUTH style work, linked here, for example,  is placed under CAFACASS' collective nose they can still only repeat their policy.  Talk about,  "none so deaf as those that will not hear"!

But:  
Not all CAFCASS departments are quite that hidebound!  Many will quietly accept that our work addresses the problems! It will be considered as the equivalent of a DVPP, a statement which consoles and irritates in equal measure; our programme is far, far better than an accredited DVPP. But for a client of ours it is a risk that CAFCASS will not recognise our  work as valid!  Obviously they need to be confronted by the realities!    

In London  CAFCASS will try to funnel men into DVIP's programme. Cafcass will often ask for a "risk assessment" and then they will check with RESPECT about who is trained to deliver this. Of course 7 of the 15 RESPECT recognised risk assessors work for DVIP, 2 work for Pai Pact, 5 work for Ahimsa and 2 are perhaps independent. You can hear where this is now going! In 3 cases out of 4 the risk assessments conflate (make worse) your problems and will define them in terms of your "power and control" over your wife or partner.  The cost of the report will be somewhere between £1,600 and £2,300, £1,200 if you can negotiate a discount!  They will, of course, recommend DVIP's work - of course - you will read in their report that  DVIP has been considered a "Centre of Excellence"  and if you attend DVIP's sessions and you earn £40 k or more a year they wanted to charge you £70  per session for up to 32 sessions not so long ago.  You'll have a less than a 1 in 4 chance of completing their work.  How will that look when "you" fail?
A useful, independent risk assessment from our point of view is linked here;  sadly it cost the man over £4,000!

Cases before the courts are now supposed to be completed within 26 weeks. This means that RESPECT is frantically looking round for a "short version."  

Despite the efforts of some of their membership RESPECT's accredited programmes have managed to fail to learn how to engage with men for 25 years. You cannot do that by mistake! RESPECT and DVIP in particular have simply not been interested in engaging with the men. Their underlying belief is that men are incapable of changing their behaviour anyway. There is little likelihood they will have learnt now, even if their mind-set allowed for it!  This fits exactly with Women's Aid's preferred image of men, the leopard, with its genetic spots! But of course the man's problem as they will describe it is his learned behaviour!

Academic research by Dr Louise Dixon, formerly of Birmingham University, clearly outlines the radical ideological basis on which the work accredited by RESPECT is based. She and her colleagues called for its abandonment in 2011.  


The Centre forSocial Justice, a think tank, in its paper in 2012 called for a complete re-think on the subject of failing perpetrator programmes – the kind RESPECT accredit! "Because when things are not working a complete re-think is needed!"

The MOJ paper cited above. 


(Washington State Institute for Public Policy, January 2013)

Effectiveness of Duluth model

•Six rigorous outcome evaluations “… we conclude that the Duluth model, the most common treatment approach, appears to have no effect on recidivism.”…..

“…therefore, this approach cannot be considered “evidence-based” (or research-based or promising).”

•“We found five rigorous evaluations covering a variety of non-Duluth group-based treatments. On average, this diverse collection of programs reduced DV recidivism by a statistically significant 33% [versus no effect with Duluth model]”

The Mirabal Project, (2015) the latest feminist inspired research into the effectiveness of work with abusers, commissioned by RESPECT, expended £1.2 m researching the outcomes and could find only 36 men on whom to base their research – the results of the work of 4 "accredited" projects of which DVIP was one, together running at least 7 programmes!

The validity of such “gains” as the researchers established, which were considered attributable to the programmes, were greatly undermined, according to other academics, by the fact that the researchers apparently  failed to separate the research from those initially interviewed to those interviewed who  completed the programme.   So the researchers’  assessment of  “no further  this or that ” is not based on any reality since it is entirely possible that the individuals who had used sexual violence, for example, were no longer in the group which completed the programmes and were  therefore not re-researched!   

  

Although the West Midlands Police were only apparently called to domestic  violence incidents where approx.14% of men were the victims, the average in other police forces is about 19%, and in some areas, the Met, for example as high as 25%. The message is clear, females are also abusers of males,  and that abuse happens no less frequently in front of the children that social services are trying to protect from exposure to violence. 


If that were not enough the "power and control" mantra, required by RESPECT was also discounted by the late Ellen Pence as wrong in her book in 1999 - I read the appropriate passage to the annual general NPN meeting in Bristol in 2009. Needless to say it was mis-quoted in their minutes! 


And if Ellen Pence was the original and highly respected guru of the Duluth abuser programme her observations have been completely ignored by her successors who talked enthusiastically about the "power and control wheel" - the Russian version! - at a Hestia organised conference I attended in London in 2017.   


CAFCASS is completely misguided in requiring RESPECT's accredited "nonsense", I use the word in its literal context. The work demanded does not make sense, evidence of its effectiveness is almost non-existent, highlighted by "Nice"  - Canada, MOJ Uk and a raft of other research. 


The RESPECT accredited work does not address the individual man's problems, therefore it fails. It also seeks to excuse women their abuse of men, therefore it is additionally dangerous for children!  


CAFCASS are the so-called guardians of those children!


Let us now turn to other aspects of the current policies or practices. 


Female abusers, perpetrators for the sake of an equality of language.


Until about 2012/13 between 10 and 15% of our clients were women. Many were referred by social services.  We have no evidence to prove it but we have no reason to disbelieve that our work with women was any less successful than our work with men. Despite female violence towards men being now recognised to be between 20 and 40% depending on whose figures you choose to believe, our female particpants have dwindled to about 2%. What happens with female perpetrators?   They are mainly sent of the "Freedom Programme" for victims of men's violence.  Even the women that tries to insist that she is the perpetrator will bump into Social Services' will that she must do the Freedom Programme or they will, (coercively!, take her children off her!)   Of course the Freedom Programme, as we understand it, is free to the victims of domestic abuse, and therefore an enormous carrot to Social Services who are seriously under- funded. No doubt it is funded from the various pots of money enjoyed by Women's Aid and Refuge and other similar charities who enjoy income from central government, local government and other sources in the region of £298 m per year enabling one charity with an annual income of about £10.5 m to be able to afford to pay its CEO about £180  k p.a. plus pension etc which takes her package to little  short of £250K 


Work with abusive women is also needed. As far as I am aware we are the only or one of the very few non-statutory organisations in the country which undertakes such work, and we have been doing so for more than 20 years. Of course this does not fit with a strategy of preventing violence to women and girls but it does fit with the guardianship of children, and more than that it fits with reality! 


Of course the other guardians of children, rather more in the form of physical protection and supervision are social services. So how does RESPECT style work help to address the problems of the men whose children come under the supervision of and into contact with social services? 


Learning for which might be taken from the South Tyneside effort - 2009 “South Tyneside".  Here are snippits from the research.


The South Tyneside programme trained 15 facilitators and in 2 years managed to complete work with just  7 abusers from 163 referrals.

Key findings over the two year period October 2006-2008, 166 men were in contact with the STDAPP, of which 62 had initial and/or ongoing contact with a practitioner to discuss issues of domestic abuse.

Seven men completed the programme between October 2006-2008.” There was just one  completion by a social services referred case.   

“During the early phase of the programme the number of referrals from Children’s  Services, due to child protection concerns, had a seemingly negative impact on the dynamics and success of the programme.” 

P 11 “By the time this report was being completed 15 staff had been trained and there were eight active practitioners (March 2009).”   i.e. 7 facilitators had dropped out!

P 12 “4. Interviews with male clients/ perpetrators (Phase 1 N=18, Phase 2 N=3)”

P 21 / 22 Between October 2006 and October 2008 a total of 50 referrals were from Children’s Services.  Of these 50 cases, 43 had been closed by October 2008 with only 1 man completing and only 3 progressing on to the group programme.  35 of these referrals were directly from Social Workers with a further 15 men referring themselves but stating that they were encouraged to do so by Social Services.”

 

 Our statistics from 2015 give clear indications about the numbers of Social Services cases with which we were able to engage.  


 

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