RESPONSE TO OUR OPEN LETTER FROM CAFCASS
Sent via email. 24 February 2021
To the Evidence-based Social Work Alliance
Response to the Open Letter from the Evidence-based Social Work Alliance
Thank you for your letter dated 09 February 2021, received on 15 February, enquiring
about Cafcass’ current policies and practices regarding gender identity. I hope that you
find this information helpful.
In your correspondence, you have asked that Cafcass address the following points:
1) A review of policy and update of practice guidance for social workers who are
working with gender dysphoric children, their families, and schools.
2) To make available the evidence upon which policy and practice guidelines in
issues of sex and gender identity, both for adults and children, are based.
3) To facilitate respectful and considered debate on the topic of sex and gender
identity in social work practice.
4) To make clear that threats, bullying and intimidation towards social workers who
explore evidence for practice in this field will not be tolerated.
All Cafcass practitioners have access to a range of internal training resources, including
mandatory ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ training, as well as training around working with
LGBT+ young people and adults and specific training around working with trans
individuals. Our training is designed to enhance practitioners’ understanding of the
issues for young people experiencing gender dysphoria; how to work in a sensitive,
responsive and individual way with these young people; how to analyse risk relating to
their unique situation; the discrimination facing trans people within society; handling
misinformation and misconceptions about trans people.
They also have access to a ‘peer practice specialist’ – a Cafcass practitioner they can
consult when working with a young person who is questioning their gender or seeking
help with gender issues. Practitioners can access a range of resources through our in-
house Library service and we have an intranet page dedicated to resources on working
with trans adults and young people. The Family Justice Young People’s Board has
published top tips for working with transgender children and which we have promoted
internally. Furthermore, the FJYPB provide regular support and challenge to ensure we
reflect the diverse needs of children and young people in our practice, including working
with LGBT+ young people.
We recognise the importance of not making assumptions when working with young
people who may be exploring or questioning their gender identity; the young person is
the best person to tell us what is going on for them. In our assessments and reports to
the family court, we will always reflect the wishes, feelings, experiences of children and
their relevance to our recommendations.
It is a highly sensitive and personal experience and the timing, place and who is present
when we have these conversations are all important considerations to ensure the young
person is supported and not put under any pressure.
We work closely with Social Work England and the BASW and would be willing and
interested in contributing to a review of social work practice guidance in this practice
We are supportive of our staff and encourage them to explore practice evidence in all
areas of social work. Our Cafcass Library service plays an integral part, enabling
practitioners to learn from practice research. We also run staff ‘think-ins’ which allow our
practitioners to have considered debate on different areas of social work practice and all
participants are encouraged to voice their opinions during these workshops.
Please do write again if you would like to correspond further or indeed to have a virtual
RESPONSE TO OUR OPEN LETTER FROM BASW
Sent via email. 9th February 2021
Dear Evidence Based Social Work Alliance
Re: Open Letter from EBSWA dated 9 February 2021
Thank you for your open letter dated 9th February 2021 and your appeal for a policy review and practice
guidance regarding sex and gender identity and the requests you make.
We believe and fully understand that this is a very important area for social work practice with children and
adults. We are following and debating the implications of recent legal and clinical developments. Recently
our magazine Professional Social Work carried articles from different perspectives on transgender practice
with young people.
We do not claim to have done all the work we need to do. In September 2020 BASW Council passed a
motion that agreed for BASW to:
• Plan for the development of social work capabilities on gender identity
• Address the lack of training across social work education on gender identity.
There is much to be done to clarify policy and practice guidance in this field and for that to be evidence
based. Equally for social work to be properly evidence based in this field, there is a need for more
evidence to be generated – empirical and otherwise - and also for that which is presented to be more
available, known and understood across the profession. BASW has a key role in all of this.
We wholeheartedly agree that no social worker should experience threats, bullying and intimidation in their
work on this or any subject.
There are contested views and complex safeguarding considerations at stake. We will engage with these
and ensure the association has an ethical stance and promotes good evidence and practice guidance that
properly protects the wellbeing and interests of children and young people.
We will continue to develop our work, in discussion, considered debate and engagement with our members’
policy and ethics group/s. BASW will support, work with other social work bodies and where appropriate
lead the debate and development of best evidence on sex and gender identity in social work practice.
BASW would welcome further direct dialogue with EBSWA on these important issues going forward.
Dr Ruth Allen
British Association of Social Workers