For those readers not familiar with my blog I have now not seen my three beautiful children for over 13 months. This is due to my ex-partner and mother of my children breaching numerous Court Orders and ‘successfully’ denying me contact with my children. Like so many other alienated parents out there, my case is one of severe parental alienation. For those unfamiliar with this form of abuse see here for a more detailed definition.
So in returning to the subject of this particular post I recently put in a complaint to Cafcass (The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service). Cafcass is a government run body that claims to look after the interests of children involved in family proceedings.
First I would like to present the reader with some context. As stated above I have not seen my children for 13 months. Cafcass have evidence that my ex-partner is emotionally abusing my children by alienating them against me and Cafcass are failing to protect my children from this abuse. Cafcass lack the expertise, clinical knowledge and experience to deal with such cases. They continue to view such cases as child custody issues as opposed to child protection. They continue to believe such cases should be managed by social workers as opposed to mental health practitioners. Anyway these arguments are for another day.
And so, with my increasing concerns for the welfare of my children combined with Cafcass’ increasing incompetence and negligence I took it upon myself, several weeks ago to email the Senior Service Manager of my local Cafcass office with the following questions via email. In the interests of confidentiality and professionalism I will refer to the Senior Service Manager as Groucho Marx:
Dear Groucho Marx,
Could you please provide me with answers to the following questions please.
- Can someone from Cafcass please explain why there is such a difference between theory and practice that has allowed this alienation to go on unchallenged for just over a year.
- Can someone from Cafcass please explain why Cafcass practitioners are clearly not knowledgeable enough to recognise parental alienation.
- Could you please explain to me your professional understanding of the difference between acute, significant and chronic harm
- Could you please explain the criteria, assessment process and formulation used to differentiate between these different forms and degrees of abuse.
I left it a couple of days. Suffice to say I received no reply from Groucho Marx. I emailed it again directly to Groucho Marx. I left it a couple more days, still no reply. I left it another couple of days and sent it yet again to Groucho Marx. Totally predictable I know, but guess what, still no reply.
So I then put in an official complaint to Cafcass politely inquiring as to why Groucho Marx, or anyone for that matter was unwilling or unable to answer any of my questions. One would think that was a reasonable question to ask considering the complexities of my case. The following is my reply from the Cafcass Complaints Department about 5 days later:
Dear btg dad,
Thank you for your email dated #############.
We note your comments, however, we have nothing further to add.
Customer Services Team
So I found myself sitting in front of this email thinking to myself, who the fuck does this organisation think it is. An organisation that claims to look after the interests of children involved in family proceedings, my arse!
So there and then I decided to telephone the Cafcass Complaints Department directly.
The following is not simply my own recollection of the numerous conversations, but a transcript as I took the liberty of recording all the phonecalls:
Phonecall No. 1:
Me: I explained the situation and put my point across that the emailed response from the Complaints Department was completely unacceptable.
Call Operator No. 1: “Have you actually received a response from us regarding your complaint?”
Me: “Yes I have had a response. But the response doesn’t help me in anyway. It doesn’t answer any of my questions. I find the response not actually answering any of my questions. The response actually implies that the complaint is now shut down.”
Call Operator No. 1: “But sounds like you’ve got some kind of response.”
Me: “But what’s the response though? I’ve asked them several questions and they haven’t answered any of them.”
Call Operator No. 1: “Let me see if I can speak to that team.” [She puts me on hold and then puts me through to a different person.]
Call Operator No. 2: “I just want to clarify that you have actually received a response from the complaints team?”
Me: “Yes I have had a response, yes. Because my case hasn’t had a case manager for over six months I have been in contact with Groucho Marx. He recently made some comments that I want to clarify, discuss further and get some questions answered.” [I then give another long winded account of my current circumstances. Then I read out the email response to her I received from the Complaints Department]. “The response is astounding because i dont really know where to go with this as Cafcass are supposed to be helping me.
Call Operator No. 2 attempts to interrupt me at this point.
Me: “Please let me finish, I then received a further email stating that this response has been quality assured” [I know what you’re thinking, this shit is unbelievable right!] I continued with my point… “It is unbelievable that the response from the Complaints Department that didn’t answer any of my questions has been quality assured. So I emailed back to the Complaints Department stating you still havent answered any of my questions!”
Call Operator No. 2: “We have heads of departments that oversee the complaints we receive. Each complaint comes in centrally to one location. There are a team of customer service managers that respond.”
Me: “So is it that my complaint has now been closed. No one’s going to answer these questions, or is it still open? Someone is clinically able to make certain statements but when questions are raised in response to these questions it feels like they are just not able or willing to answer any of these questions.”
Call Operator No. 2: “I just want to clarify the these questions that you asked Groucho Marx, are they just questions or are you raising a complaint?”
Me: [I tell her the same story again.] “I have clinical questions about Cafcass. I am a service user of Cafcass I have the right to ask clinical questions about the practice of Cafcass. But no one is being supportive of this request.”
Call Operator No. 2: “We have a one step process in terms of dealing with complaints. Once we have dealt with a particular issue we will not revisit it again.”
Me: “But you haven’t dealt with the issue that I’m raising have you? I’m not leaving this phonecall until someone answers these questions.”
Call Operator No. 2: “What I can advise you regarding this particular call is that I’m not going to be able to answer these questions for you.”
Me: “So can you put me through to someone that can…”
Call Operator No. 2: [She then starts to talk over me] “This is is what’s going to happen. I’m going to take these questions and send them to our ‘enhanced service manager’ and actually get them to look at the complaint that is on file and then come back to you. And that will be done by email.”
Me: “When should I expect a reply and are they going to be able to answer my questions.”
Call Operator No. 2: “I can’t advise you what the response is going to be, I’m telling you that I’m going to forward this information on.”
Me: “So you’re saying you’re not sure they are going to be able to answer the questions but hopefully they can?”
Call Operator No. 2: “I can’t guarantee what the level of response will be. Thank you very much.”
Me: “Please don’t hang up on me.”
Call Operator No. 2: “Thank you goodbye.” [She ends the call.]
I then call the complaints department straight back again. I repeat my story of my current circumstances and get put through to someone from the Complaints Department yet again.
Call Operator No. 3: “You will get a response today responding to your complaint, it will be via email.”
Me: “Ok, but will they be able to answer my questions?”
Call Operator No. 3: “They didnt go into any detail?”
Me: “The problem is that we just go round in circles. Ive already had…” [I start to tell her the same story again, she interrupts me at this point.]
Call Operator No. 3: “So it will be in response to your conversations today.”
Me: “So will they be able to answer my questions then?”
Call Operator No. 3: “They will respond by email.”
Me: “If they respond by email, and still don’t answer these questions then nothing is achieved. The frustrating thing is that I dont actually get to speak to anyone that can help me.”
Call Operator No. 3: “If I was you I would just wait and see until you get the email.”
Me: “But I just want to speak to someone who can help me.”
Call Operator No. 3: “Well you spoke to someone earlier didnt you?”
Me: “Yeah but they were unable to help me. I still get no answers to my questions.”
Call Operator No. 3: “I would just wait for the email, and it should be the response that you want.”
Me: “Well that’s highly unlikely. And then if it isn’t the response, as in answers to my questions, do I then need to do all this again tomorrow?
Call Operator No. 3: “Well all I can say is just wait for that response.”
Me: “So if they continue to not answer questions I have been asking for over a month do I just keep going through this procedure?”
Call Operator No. 3: “Well you could call the complaints call centre again.”
Me: “But the point is no one is able to answer the questions I am asking. I’m just wondering when I will actually get to speak to someone who is qualified enough to answer my questions.”
Call Operator No. 3: “Im not sure becauses I’m in the call centre.”
Me: “So do I just need to do this again tomorow when I get an email response that will probably not answer my questions. Is that what you are saying I should do?
Call Operator No. 3: “Yes I would advise calling the call centre again.”
Me: “Well that’s the whole point. I’ve done that before and it doesn’t get me anywhere.”
Call Operator No. 3: “I think you just need to be positive and wait for the email. Thank you.” [She ends the call immediately after her sentence.]
Now, I am an incredibly patient and determined individual. So I thought, lets call them back again!…
Me: [I give the same story, get put on hold then get put through to someone else.]
Call Operator No. 4: “I can give you the number for the ombudsman.”
Me: “But the ombudsman isn’t going to be able to answer my questions.”
Call Operator No. 4: “There is nothing more I can do for you I am just in a call centre.”
Me: “So I need to go through an ombudsman to get answers about Cafcass?”
Call Operator No. 4: “We have already sent our response.”
Me: “But it wasn’t a response, I asked questions and no one answered them.”
Call Operator No. 4: “Okay, but that was the response they sent to you.”
Me “But that response is insufficient.”
Call Operator No. 4: “Ok this is somethng you need to bring up with the ombudsman.”
Me: “There must be someone there more senior I can speak to. Cafacass are supposed to be an organisation that safeguards children, I have concerns but I’m not able to speak to anyone directly about these concerns.”
Call Operator No. 4: “Because we have sent you a response there is nothing more we can do.”
[At this point I then hear a faint male voice in the background instructing the call operator to end the call.]
Me: “Can I speak to the person that is speaking to you in the background?”
Call Operator No. 4: “Theres nothing more I can do I’m afraid.”
Me: “You didnt answer my question, can I speak to the person that I can clearly hear in the background?”
Call Operator No. 4: “Unfortunately you can’t.”
Me: “I just find this whole process incredibly frustrating…” [she interrupts me.]
Call Operator No. 4: “Okay there is nothing else I can do” [I can clearly hear a male voice in the background telling her “end the call, end the call.”] Call Operator No. 4 then says “thank you for your call” [and then she hangs up on me.]
I then call back again, believe it or not:
Call Operator No. 5: “How can I help you?”
Me: [I explain yet again my circumstances.]
Call Operator No. 5: “I understand sir that you have recently spoken to my colleague and I cannot give any further information.”
Me: “I know what youre going to say. People keep hanging up on me. I’m not being aggresive, I’m not agitated, I’m not getting irritated. The last person I spoke to wouldn’t let me finish my sentence and cut me off.” [Call Operator No. 5 attempts to interrupt me] “Can you please not interrupt me, can you please let me finish my sentence?”
Call Operator No. 5: “Certainly sir.”
Me: “Can you please put me through to my Case Manager?”
Call Operator No. 5: “No you need to speak to the ombudsman sir. That is your next point of call and I need to be quite firm in that. There is nothing we can do here. I am unable to put you through to anyone.”
Me: “Okay, lets forget the complaint, can I just speak to my Case Manager about the welfare of my children?”
Call Operator No. 5: “Just give me a moment and I will see what I can do. [Puts me on hold] “Well that request is outside of the complaint. Let me see if I can put you through.” [Puts me back on hold]. “Her line is busy sir, but what I can do is email the person you are requesting to speak to and ask them to call you back.
What else can I say! What a bunch of idiots! And the sad and tragic point is that this organisation’s aim is to safeguard children.
The American writer Walter Dean Myers once said “idiots don’t know they’re idiots, which is unfortunate.”
I am an alienated parent of three. Part-time psychiatric nurse, part-time writer. I am also an online activist against parental alienation. I use my knowledge of mental health and lived experience of parental alienation to promote awareness of parental alienation.