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Peace Not Pas

A Parent's Story of Battling Parental Alienation

Tag: Anthony Douglas

Parental Alienation; is change on the horizon?

Regarding the raising of awareness of parental alienation I believe change is on the horizon. I am not naive enough to believe it will happen overnight. However, very much like the general public’s past lack of understanding of mental health, parental alienation is now starting on that same journey.

Last week parental alienation was reported on the BBC national news here in the UK.

Understandably this was shared across social media by the thousands upon thousands of alienated parents out there. It felt to me that the online anti-parental alienation community shared it with a somewhat cautionary sense of relief; that as much as we are sill denied reform, finally something so unjust as parental alienation is now being discussed on prime time national news here in the UK.

On the same day as the above reporting, the BBC also published the following related article on their BBC News website written by their Education Editor Branwen Jeffreys; When a Child Won’t See One Parent.

In her article Jeffreys explores the nature of parental alienation, all be it briefly, but at least, once again this form of abuse is on it’s way to reaching the attention of a much wider audience.

The article finishes with comments from Professor Liz Trinder, from the University of Exeter. Trinder makes the statement “the idea of parental alienation as a pattern of behaviours needs to be treated carefully, because the courts have a duty to consider the child’s best interests.”

Trinder then goes on to state “the problem with the alienation concept is that if your premise is the child has been brainwashed, it means you can’t trust what the child is saying to the court. So if you make an accusation of alienation it almost automatically casts suspicion on anything the child might say.” Even though Trinder appears to be coming from a cautionary perspective, she has clearly and unintentionally hit the nail on its head when she states “it almost automatically casts suspicion on anything the child might say.”

Anyone that knows anything about parental alienation knows that children are simply paraphrasing the alienating parent regarding their expression of negative views of the rejected parent. We all know alienated children have been coached and groomed into hating the other parent. Trinder conveniently chooses to omit that statistically children do not naturally reject a parent or care-giver. Even in cases of where the child is aware of the abuse, children remain attached to that parent. Children are hard-wired to remain attached to their parent(s).

In the above news report footage, Sarah Parsons (Principal Social Worker, Cafcass) makes the following statement “their [the affected children] only way of staying safe is to side with one parent and reject the other.” This view from Parsons, even by Cafcass’ standards is clearly the opposite view of Trinder’s regarding her call for services to be cautious with potential cases of parental alienation.

On 5th February 2018 Martin Daubney wrote an article entitled UK Dads are being airbrushed out of existence by family courts favouring and bankrolling Mums for the i Newspaper/website.

Daubney reminds us that free legal aid was stopped following the implementation in 2013, of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act 2012. The only exception in terms of who would still be entitled to free legal aid was women who claimed domestic abuse, which leads to the application for Non-Molestation Orders.

Daubney then goes on to highlight the astonishing fact that in the year following the introduction of this Act, applications for LASPO boomed by 300%.

Daubney then reminds us that prior to the implementation of LASPO, the legal aid split was roughly 40% v 60% to men and women. Post-LASPO it is now 15% v 85% respectively. Daubney rightly argues that the change in these figures is clearly more than coincidental.

On 21st November 2016 parental alienation was also discussed on the Victoria Derbyshire news show on the BBC.

There is, in the following footage an all too familiar and disturbing interview with an anonymous child victim of parental alienation. The discussion in the studio that then subsequently takes place includes Anthony Douglass (CEO, Cafcass), Joanna Abrahams (Head of Family Law, Setford Solicitors) and Greg Mulholland (Liberal Democrat MP). Around the eight and a half minute mark Douglas is struggling to answer reasonable yet challenging questions from Mulholland.

It is incredibly important that those of us that have the time and resources to do so, to continue to chip away at this flawed system. It is incredibly important that we also continue to do all we can to actively raise awareness of parental alienation.

The above are just a few examples of the increase of discussion of parental alienation in the public domain. However despite the above examples, the current low level of public awareness of parental alienation remains unacceptable.

I do believe change will come. However like all past instances of social change, it is only ever pushed and forced on governments from the grass roots level of society; by the very people that are effected by the much needed social change. And this time, those people are us; the hundreds of thousands of alienated parents, grandparents and step parents.

We can do this, change will come. It is definitely time for the sun to set on this outdated and flawed system.


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Our Reply to Anthony Douglas, CEO, Cafcass

Dear Mr Douglas,

Thank you very much for your prompt response to our recent letter acknowledging that you will now take on board our points as part of the reform process.

However, unfortunately you haven’t addressed any of our concerns. While we again appreciate your reiteration that “we recognise parental alienation,” you haven’t explained why:

  • There is no evidence of this on the front-line, where your employees are contradicting you.
  • It is taking so long to engage your staff with this, re-train and re-calibrate the culture and practices there.
  • It is taking so long to develop the measures to combat parental alienation.
  • Shared care isn’t recommended in the majority of cases.
  • There has been no mention of re-unification of alienated parents with their children
  • There are no target change dates and milestones.

You may well have noticed that our 21 point document has started to circulate around social media, including Linkedin, where the issue is attracting the attention of a number of media contacts as well as organisational change and leadership commentators and experts.

As we stated in our letter, enough is enough.

We are aware of your own personal background so know that you will be able to appreciate the incredible distress this issue is causing a great many people.

With that in mind can we please ask you to expand on your generalised statements about the assessment framework and provide very concerned parents with more clarity and reassurances about the other change pathways and measures you alluded to in your press releases last year?

Given the number of people involved and scale of this growing issue, this is every bit as serious an issue for Cafcass as similar challenges presented to CEOs of organisations of a similar size; not least the Windrush scandal at the Home Office, VW’s emissions problems or even the culture change issues at Carillion. Arguably, parental alienation affects many more people, especially children.

The fact there is a plethora of evidence that this form of abuse has such a lasting negative impact on both the short and long term mental health of the effected children should make the urgency of any reforms that much more a priority for the numerous stakeholders/agents of change involved. There are also detrimental effects on the mental health of the targeted families. We are proud of our gender neutral stance, however with 97% of residencies being given to mothers by the Family Court in the UK, (Kielty, S., University of East Anglia, 2006) this forces those fathers that don’t get granted residency  into the highest risk group within the UK for suicide rates.

We can count amongst our numbers several well-respected leadership and change consultants who have worked with director’s general of senior government departments, including the Cabinet Office. They are appalled by the lack of apparent urgency, absence of collective responsibility and clear disconnect between your enlightened view and front line service user experience. Look at what Starbucks has just achieved on the back of a single race-related incident, having mobilised mass training and communication in under a month? Yet they are only entrusted to sell coffee, not influence children’s lives and their profit margins are considerably less than the money spent in Family Court, daily.

Please don’t take this as negativity or hostility on our behalf. We want to do all we can to help you bring about expedient change. But we do hope you can appreciate the seriousness of our concerns, the extent of our desperation and the strength of will to resolve the most important issue we all face, the future of our relationships with our children.

This will in part be decided by your next actions.

We trust you are able to reply with reassuring specifics about what you as CEO of Cafcass and your leadership team and board will deliver this year and when we can expect to see positive change in the practice of your front line staff.

We look forward to your response, ideally within the next seven days.

Yours sincerely,

Peace Not Pas

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