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Firstly, hats off to Karen and Nick Woodall for organising the conference and managing to get most of the key names and innovative thinkers in parental alienation into one place at the same time. The American authors of so any groundbreaking books and studies such as Bill Bernet, Amy Baker, Linda Gotlieb and Stephen Miller were all inspirational, as were all the other speakers we heard from.

However, there were some notable absentees from the conference. Many professionals and parents were in evidence but sadly some professional bodies and organisations snubbed the opportunity to learn from some of the best in the business. Perhaps the most conspicuous absentees were Cafcass – who have trumpeted various initiatives of late but who do not appear to want to hear any inconvenient voices that sing a different tune to them.

A somewhat inconvenient fact of life is that Cafcass have been semi-galvanised into action following the shocking revelations at the FNF conference when Anthony Douglas spouted the same anodyne and assuaging nonsense as usual only to be held to account by the great work of Rob Harrison whose sterling efforts revealed that beneath the watered down layer of surface gloss there was an absence of an undercoat. The take up on training offered to Cafcass’s workforce revealed a less than enthusiastic staff that were more bothered about travelling expenses than safeguarding children. You can watch Anthony Douglas’ speech and hear the questions afterwards by using the link below.

I say this because that is what the evidence clearly showed. It is now around 20 years since Cafcass were formed. It is also almost twenty years since Re L and the Sturge and Glasser report and it is 15 years since Wall J stated that , ‘…parental alienation is a well recognised phenomenon.’ The words are important, Note, PHENOMENON. Nonetheless, for between 15 and 20 years Cafcass have deftly and cynically brushed an observed, empirically researched and reported phenomenon under the carpet. They have ignored almost two decades of case-law and cherry picked the bits they like whilst ignoring the bits that did not appeal. They have ignored case law that would have informed their practice and enabled them to perform their statutory function better. They could have protected and safeguarded virtually a generation of children from emotional abuse. They have ignored them and pretended they did not exist.

The result is that with constantly improving public awareness their antipathy now stands out like a sore thumb and they hurried to commission a review of research and case-law from Cardiff University who in turn rushed to publish a cursory view of PA to substantiate the world view of their paymasters, Cafcass. It has taken Cafcass at least 15 years to even review the research and case law. In itself that is a shocking admission.

We will shortly be publishing an antidote to the Cardiff University report but meanwhile, one of the research team, Julie Doughty has teamed up with Sarah Parsons of Cafcass to produce a podcast on PA for social workers.

Perhaps the kindest thing I can say about this podcast is that it is, cringeworthy, contradictory and embarrassing. In places it is also plainly wrong e.g the term implacable hostility was in fact first coined by Latey J in Re B (A Minor) (Access) [1984] FLR 648.

Please judge for yourselves. Before commenting further, what do you think?

Here is a link to the podcast. Enjoy!

Note: for some reason these links do not always work. Therefore. I will put a link in the comments too.

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