Current provision of Domestic Abuse Perpetrator Programmes
Prior to the pandemic, the family justice system was under enormous pressure with increases in numbers across all areas of public and private family law. After over a year of working with the constraints of the pandemic, the system finds itself with significant backlogs, in certain types of work. The provision of Domestic Abuse Perpetrator Programmes (DAPPs) in England has been adversely affected due to the necessary face-to-face delivery model and a number of DAPP providers have had to reduce or suspend their offer.
Careful consideration has been given to the possible development of remote DAPPs using another safe alternative, however, there is not yet sufficient evidence to support the adoption of a remote model. Unfortunately, a backlog of several hundred cases has accrued. We all appreciate that this backlog has a considerable impact on parents and their children who need certainty about their contact arrangements. Leaders across the family justice system agree that we must collectively act to address this and consider alternative options where safe and in the interests of the child and a temporary process has been agreed. This applies in England only as DAPPs are not available in Wales.
The temporary process is outlined below:
- Cafcass has issued with immediate effect, temporary guidance to support Family Court Advisers when making recommendations progressing cases in the current context where DAPP provision is severely limited.
- Cafcass is establishing a small, dedicated team to review the circumstances of families for whom a DAPP has been ordered, but not yet completed, prioritising first those for whom a DAPP has not yet commenced. These case reviews will involve a Family Court Adviser reviewing the child’s file, speaking with adults and children to re-assess the current risks and options, taking account of the new guidance. The child will be given the opportunity to write to the court explaining the impact for them and their wishes and feelings.
- For cases that have been reviewed, Cafcass will request the court’s permission to file a further report, and there may need to be a further hearing to consider this. These reports may recommend either:
- that the case remains on the waiting list as no safe and beneficial arrangements for time with the child are possible without this provision, with appropriate ongoing oversight including a process of monthly review; or
- that the application to court for the existing order for a DAPP can be discharged and an alternative plan (informed by the reassessment) can be put in place: this could be a final order of no contact, a final order for contact with a safety plan and other provision, or an interim order for ‘a step-by-step approach to the progression of contact arrangements’, with a further review and an addendum ordered. From 1 May 2021, Child Contact Interventions commissioned by Cafcass on behalf of the Ministry of Justice were replaced with the new Improving Child and Family Arrangements (ICFA) service. The ICFA service is designed to be a more tailored and less prescriptive approach to meet the needs of individual children and their families.
- In areas where there is capacity to commence new individuals in face-to-face DAPP programmes, families identified at 3a above will take priority, under new arrangements for oversight, which are currently being developed. Cafcass will only start making referral recommendations in reports for new cases once those families with delayed proceedings have been able to progress, unless a DAPP is seen to be the most suitable option. In this situation, the family will be added to the DAPP waiting list.
Implementation of this temporary process will result in new referrals for DAPPs only being made in cases where it is truly necessary and having due regard to the delay this order will inevitably cause. Cafcass will keep the temporary arrangements under review and share the learning with the National Recovery Group. It is anticipated that DAPP provision will be reinstated when the system has recovered.
Cafcass Chief Executive Jacky Tiotto and Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division said:
“We recognise how incredibly important it is for children and their families to receive the services they need without delay. The consequences of the pandemic and the essential need for the Domestic Abuse Perpetrator Programme to take place in-person has meant this hasn’t always been possible.
“We are working with all involved in family justice to ensure that the people currently waiting to take part in the programme are prioritised and that we have measures in place to ensure that waiting times are kept to a minimum and regularly reviewed for children and their families.”