Separating Parents: Cafcass Launches Planning Together for Children
New resources for separating parents to support their children
Cafcass (Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service) has recently launched on behalf of the Ministry of Justice, a new course and set of resources for parents to help them think about how to prioritise their children’s needs while they are separating. Planning Together for Children combines e-learning, group work and online support for parents involved in private law family court proceedings. It replaces the Separated Parents Information Programme (SPIP). Around 24,000 parents are referred to a SPIP course every year and their feedback has been used to develop this new set of resources.
SPIPs have been often the ‘go to’ prescription from the courts, used as a tool to encourage separated parents to see their situation differently, recognise how conflict can affect their children, and try to see a better way forward. However, SPIPs were a one off course, often a ‘tick box’ exercise, and did not allow a parent to explore the deeper issues in their particular situation, and the focus would just return back to the litigious forum of the court arena. Coupled with a struggling, overloaded court system, this has meant that there have been more and longer delays, which has the effect of children being exposed to conflict for longer, with extended periods of uncertainty. This can take its toll on children’s day to day lives, their schooling, and making them feel that they are caught in the middle.
Planning Together for Children: designed with children mind
The new resource has been designed with children in mind, and there are three stages to the Planning Together for Children:
- eLearning modules: a set of self-directed e-learning modules that focus on topics such as what happens if parents go to court, understanding and managing emotion, and looking at things from a child’s point of view;
- Group workshop: a group workshop where parents will be encouraged to discuss, think about and extend their learning from the e-learning modules, covering topics such as understanding the impact of conflict on children and communicating in positive ways with each other; and
- Online parenting plan: a supplementary online parenting plan – to help parents to make agreements about important parts of their co-parenting relationship and the arrangements for their children, where this is safe for the children and adults. Parents will be encouraged to share an understandable version of the plan with their child/ren.
The online parenting plan is available without the need for a referral. The interactive plan allows separating parents to agree arrangements for their children online and then to consider how they will discuss them with their children.
Planning Together for Children: designed for parents to keep revisiting
These new resources will compel parents to keep revisiting what is important, which is the needs of their children. All too often, litigation can become a battle of wills, when the collateral damage becomes the children.
Proposed mediation reforms to support parents in conflict
It is also notable that the Ministry of Justice’s proposed reforms to fund mandatory mediation will provide more scope and resources for parents in conflict, with the aim of resolving matters away from the courtroom. Perhaps the biggest benefit of all, is that if cases can be settled on this basis, there is more chance of conserving a civil co-parenting relationship for the future. The alternative is that contested court hearings can cause irreparable damage between the parents, and the real casualties in that instance, are the children in the case.
The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the date of publication and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.
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