Please find pasted below the DfES 25.5.04 letter describing
the DfES-CAFCASS "Family Resolutions" project; the
attachment contains the same letter in 'pictogram' form.
You may take the view that, under the new DfES-CAFCASS "Family
.... applications to increase or vary the quantity of contact
... trigger investigations on the quality of contact
The DfES scheme is a step away from the present system. Under
the status quo, arguments on quantum are admissible.
The Early Interventions project, for which support is now
enhanced, will not be taken forward either under the DfES
scheme or by the DfES Design Team.
Please feel free to sub-distribute / post.
Here is the letter (see
also the attachment)
Mr Oliver Cyriax
New Approaches to Contact
25 May 2004
The Family Resolutions Pilot Project
Thank you for your letters of 5 May to Bruce
Clark and to me, following our meeting on 29 April. I found
our discussions very helpful and I think it might be useful
if I give some more detail here about the context of the Family
Resolutions Pilot and its aims. Some of what I say will inevitably
cover aspects of what we discussed and areas outlined in my
letter of 6 April.
Both Margaret Hodge and Lord Filkin are committed
to taking forward the Family Resolutions Pilot Project. This
commitment is in the context of the Government's response
to the recommendations set out in the Children Act Sub-Committee's
Report "Making Contact Work'. The Project aims to help
separating or separated parents reach agreement about contact
and residence for their children, without needing formal family
court proceedings. The pilot phase will test the effectiveness
of a range of measures including information and advice and
parental co-operation sessions. Since our meeting, Bruce Clarke
has again spoken to Lord Filkin and the minister has reconfirmed
his support for the Family Resolutions Pilot Project.
In designing and implementing the project, ministers
fully understand the importance of drawing on the experience
and lessons learned from other jurisdictions. Undoubtedly
a great deal of good work has been done in the UK and elsewhere
in this area and it is very important we do not work in isolation.
In particular, the Project is drawing on the recommendations
of the ad hoc group chaired by District Justice Nicholas Crichton.
The project will promote good quality contact
while, through screening and risk assessment, it will safeguard
children from the risks of domestic violence, abuse and the
adverse effects of their parents' conflict. The pilot will
provide well presented relevant information and skills guidance
in planning for co-operative parenting, as well as further
support in reaching agreement.
However I am sure you can understand if I take
this opportunity to underline that the pilot and subsequent
national rollout will be operating in the context of the current
statute law, as interpreted by case law judgments. In practice,
this means relying on the current assumption of contact that
has been established through case law, rather than developing
new presumptions in the statute law. Therefore, the pilot
will be based on the current principle, as set out in the
Children Act 1989, that the child's welfare will be the paramount
consideration. In this context, it is the quality of contact
between a child and his/her non-resident parent rather than
the simple quantum of contact that is the more important issue.
Further, it is a key aim of the project to encourage parents
to step back from the adult conflict and focus exclusively
on the needs of their children. Therefore, the project cannot
advocate a structured programme along the lines proposed by
"New Approaches to Contact", in terms of specifying,
from the outset, the quantity of contact. This focus on quality
ahead of quantity will feature in the planning session(s),
where both parents will be expected to work together to draw
up their own plan for co-operative parenting. These plans
will, of course, need to be flexible across time, as parents
will need to adapt and develop them to reflect changing circumstances,
such as their children growing older and becoming more independent.
I realise that discussions during the past year
have frequently referred to "Early Interventions"
and the "Florida model". This in part came about
through the significant interest about what happens in Florida
and our references to the recommendations of the ad hoc group
chaired by District Judge Nicholas Crichton. However the title
"Family Resolutions Pilot Project" was chosen to
emphasise the key principle of parents continuing to work
together in the best interest of their children, even if the
adult relationship had broken down. Also, changing the title
from "Early Interventions" acknowledges that although
the intervention may take place early in terms of Court-based
intervention, it is probably not at all early for the families.
As I mentioned above, we are very conscious
of the value to be gained from looking at what other jurisdictions
have done and this includes Australia, Canada, New Zealand,
EU countries, the "Florida" model and the US generally.
The pilot will include an independent review of court based
interventions in other jurisdictions, with a clear account
of the evaluation and monitoring undertaken. The pilot has
no in-built assumption in favour of an already existing model.
Director, Safeguarding Children Group
- the element of quantum has been removed
from cases about quantum
- quantum will not be a relevant factor when assessing how
much contact there should be
- cases about quantum will be assessed on the quality of contact
- no indications can or will be given to parents on what appropriate
levels of quantum are
The purpose of a contact application is to rule on the appropriate
level of quantum.
It is to be presumed that:
- if the quality is deemed good, there will be no need for
- if the quality is deemed bad, there should not be more contact
- if the quality is deemed indeterminate, there should be
no more contact while the case is deferred
- quality will be assessed on a subjective basis according
to nebulous criteria
- successive cases will be assessed on nebulous but different
- assessments will be made on the basis of fleetingly-observed
child-parent interaction or inferred child-parent interaction
The FR system may operate as an incentive to offer low contact
until (and after) the quality of contact is deemed adequate.
As applications can - presumably - be defended on what is
said to happen during contact, there may be additional incentive
to find fault with the non-resident parent's conduct or bearing.
Considerations of child welfare, over and above what is said
to happen during the designated period of contact, are presumably
The content of the pre-court machinery (information, skills
guidance, planning sessions, risk assessment) will presumably
focus on quality of contact.
The general statements known to the NATC on the Children Act's
private law provisions are:
"New orders are introduced to reflect our emphasis on
encouraging parents to participate fully in the child's upbringing"
The Minister introducing the Bill, 27 April 1989, Hansard
"The Children Act 1989... seeks to encourage both parents
to continue to share in their children's upbringing, even
after separation or divorce"
Consultation Document, Parental responsibility, Lord Chancellor's
Department, March 1998, p 13, para 42
"The underlying philosophy of the Children Act is that
parents have a shared responsibility for the upbringing of
their children even after the parents' relationship has broken
down. This reflects the Government's belief that children
generally benefit from a continuing relationship with both
The DfES Project is the diametric opposite of the NATC Early
Interventions project said by the Minister (on the basis of
information received from his civil servants) to be under
development: "The Early Interventions project which was
developed by New Approaches to contact NATC and others is
being developed and taken forward" (29.4.04 DCA/CEP).
Eight of the nine members of the DfES Design Team have no
knowledge of the EI project and have had no dealings with
the NATC (the general knowledge of contact issues may, in
addition, be tenuous).
The DfES Family Resolutions project was said, at the time
that funding was obtained by the DfES, to be "broadly
similar" to the NATC EI project. The DfESFamily Resolutions
project had not been announced or discussed prior to the publicised
official receipt of the EI project. It seems that the Family
Resolutions project was not the subject of a formal proposal
as a specified project.
The Family Resolutions Project is said to be a DfES project
and not a CAFCASS Project; the most recent CAFCASS guidelines
affirm in their entirety: Heading 6.5 (‘Quality Counts
Most - not Quantity’) “What counts is the quality
of a child’s relationship with the parent or family
member, not simply the amount of time they spend together.
Quantity is only one measure of quality.” [CONTACT PRINCIPLES
& GUIDANCE: Progress (Feb 04, ref BK, 7 pp)].
The CAFCASS author of this statement is on the DfES Design
Team. The author of this statement appears to be responsible
for mistaking the EI project for its opposite and presenting
EI to government, inverted, as a project developed by CAFCASS.
The CAFCASS (BK) statement on quantum is the only known supplement
to CAFCASS's assertion that: "CAFCASS does not currently
have guidelines in relation to the amount of time a child
should spend with a non-resident parent, nor does it have
detailed written-down guidance on the factors to be taken
into consideration on time based recommendations" (3
April 2002, CAFCASS/ DRC). The point of every CAFCASS welfare
report is a time-based recommendation. CAFCASS is the institutional
embodiment of the opposite of the NATC Early Interventions
The NATC EI project has support from the High Court judiciary,
the Family Law Bar Association, the 03/04 Chair of the Solicitors
Family Law Association, parents groups, mediators, the cream
of the profession generally and, perhaps most important, support
of the child development specialists.
Agreed facts are that the NATC EI documentation submitted
to the DCA and DfES has not been seen, not been read and cannot
The Family Resolutions project is due for implementation on
1 September 2004 as a prelude to national rollout.