As per previous blog, we wrote to CAFCASS (Children and Family Family Court Advisory and Support Service) on 28 February to complain that they had adopted unfounded claims and beliefs about "gender identity" in children and young people. This letter is published in previous blog post. The CAFCASS response arrived on 14 March. Readers will note that the response fails to address the main issue of complaint: which is that CAFCASS has adopted and is promoting ideological claims about gender identity and sexuality and is promoting unsafe practice. Here is their letter:
21 Bloomsbury Street
Tel: 0300 456 4000
Sent via email. 14th March 2022
Dear Maggie Mellon,
Thank you for your letter of the 28 February 2022 in which you express your concerns regarding a number of examples where we have been involved in or made reference to materials and guidance relating to gender identity, sexual orientation and sexuality.
The first of these relates to a number of book recommendations (of which ‘Detransition, Baby’ was one) shared within our social media posting during LGBT+ History Month. On receipt of a number of complaints we quickly removed the post and have paused our approach to making such recommendations and plan to have an internal review of the process. However, we do not agree the making of a book recommendation is in and of itself an overstepping of our role in encouraging colleagues to keep an open and critical mind by exploring different perspectives.
The content of the Family Justice Young People’s Board (FJYPB) Top Tips is that of the FJYPB itself, both in scope and language. The FJYPB supports the work of the family justice system and all those professionals and families involved in it, reporting to the Family Justice Board. We would not presume to substitute their voice when they work so diligently and passionately to express the views of children and young people with direct experience of public or private law proceedings.
On the matter of the Knowledge Bite, whoever had shared this with you, would know this is a piece of internal guidance for staff and not for wider dissemination, not least of which because of the danger of it being taken out of context. The material addressed issues of diversity in their broadest sense as part of the overriding principle of seeking to understand the uniqueness of the child or young person. Specifically, and in relation to working with children and young people appropriately to understand their thoughts and views on gender and sexuality, this is a rapidly changing landscape where we encourage our social workers to have a broad appreciation of the arguments – including language – without intentionally placing a marker on a particular theoretical position.
Our Knowledge Bite programme is just one among many vehicles through which we encourage and support professional debate in the furtherance of high-quality practice with children and their families. The decision about whether, when and how to raise any issues with young people remains the judgement of the social worker.
To which end we are grateful for the time you have taken to write setting out these issues. High quality social work practice benefits greatly from existing and emergent research, challenge and critical thinking in considering different perspectives. Our social workers are skilled independent thinkers who first and foremost strive to understand and respect the children with whom they work, in relationships where they consider risk, harm, strengths and children’s thoughts about the significance of recommendations to the family court.
Here is our response
Chief Executive Officer
Children and Families Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS)
Cc Sally Cheshire, Chair
Eileen Munro, Vice-Chair
Rt Hon James Cartlidge, Ministry of Justice (by post)
24 March 2022
Dear Jackie Tiotto,
Thank you for your response to our complaint about CAFCASS. However, upon reading it we find that you have not responded to the main issue and would now ask that you address the main issue of complaint directly.
In our complaint we wrote that:
“We are concerned that CAFCASS has adopted, and is promoting, unevidenced beliefs about gender identity, sexual orientation and sexuality which compromise its independent role in representing children and advising the Family Courts about what is safe for children and in their best interests.”
Our complaint is that the beliefs that you are promoting both publicly and internally to your staff are not supported by any evidence. The interim report of The Cass Review of treatment for children with gender dysphoria has been published since we wrote to you. This provides substantial grounds for concern about the beliefs that CAFCASS has uncritically adopted. In particular, it points to the lack of evidence underpinning currently advocated responses of automatic affirmation, medical intervention, and the lack of open discussion of the issues. While CAFCASS is not a medical service, your advice to the Courts is crucial in the decisions that are made. It is therefore incumbent on you to promote discussion, and gather and assess the evidence that supports or undermines belief in gender identity
In response to the specific points you do make in justification of your position: you defend the Top Tips on the basis that they are advocated for by the FJYPB. However, the young people were working unilaterally with a charity Allsorts, which is an activist organisation which wholly subscribes to beliefs about gender identity which as have no basis in any credible evidence. Young people need to hear alternative points of view, to consider evidence, and be encouraged to think critically. Encouraging them to listen to an activist charity which, like Mermaids, has established convictions which the independent Cass Review has confirmed need substantially more evidence to support them. The approach taken to developing the Top Tips and your defence of them is precisely what we are concerned about. CAFCASS does vitally important work in representing children, but we believe that the ideological ‘capture’ apparent from its relationships with such organisations as Stonewall and Allsorts seriously undermines CAFCASS’s safeguarding duty, and compromises public and professional confidence in its practices.
With regard to your response regarding the Knowledge Bite, rather than defend its content or provide any evidence-base for the concept of ‘gender identity’, you seem to object to concerned individuals sharing it with us and others on the grounds that it may be taken out of context. As a public body, your internal guidance to social work practitioners would be disclosable in any FOI request by concerned service-users or professionals. If this document forms CAFCASS policy, its contents must be open to public and professional scrutiny like any other, and CAFCASS should be required to provide defensible reasons and evidence for the approach it advocates for.
We therefore ask that you respond to the main issue raised by us, which is that you have adopted beliefs and practices about gender identity and sexuality which are unsupported by any evidence, and without any proper process of professional scrutiny and evaluation.
On behalf of the Evidence Based Social Work Alliance (EBSWA)
We have sent the correspondence to James Cartlidge, MP, the Under Secretary of State responsible for CAFCASS and asked that he take an interest in what is going on there and support our request for accountability. Here is that letter
Rt. Hon. James Cartlidge MP
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Justice
Ministry of Justice
102 Petty France,
London SW1H 9AJ
25 03 2022
Dear James Cartlidge MP
Children and Families Court Advisory and Support Service CAFCASS
EBSWA is an alliance of social workers in practice and in research and teaching who are concerned by unevidenced beliefs in gender identity in social work and allied professions.
We are writing to you as the Minister responsible for CAFCASS, the body responsible for advising the family courts on the best interests of children in cases which come before them.
We enclose correspondence with CAFCASS to date. As you will read, we raised a complaint with CAFCASS about their adoption of claims that children might belong to the opposite of their own sex; that children’s own feelings about belonging to the opposite sex should be affirmed; that CAFCASS practitioners should routinely discuss “gender identity” and sexuality with children they are introduced to in their role of advisors to the family courts; and that parents who object to this should be advised that the court may be asked to make a direction that such conversations should take place. Staff of CAFCASS are advised to wear or display rainbow and other insignia that affirm their belief in claims about sexuality and gender identity, and to encourage children to discuss this with them. There is an assumption that staff will and should support the various claims made for gender identity. As we referred to in our initial letter, CAFCASS advises staff that boys who are attracted to females can be lesbians and that girls who are attracted to boys may be gay.
You will no doubt be aware that the recent interim report of the independent review by Hilary Cass of health services for children referred for gender dysphoria/confusion found that there was no evidence to support automatic affirmation of “gender identity”. The Review also expressed concern at the over-representation of girls, and of children with autism and other conditions.
CAFCASS has adopted beliefs in ”gender identity” in children which are ideological rather than properly based in evidence. The practice that they advise is therefore unsafe and liable to undermine the confidence of the public in its work and that of the family courts.
The response we have had so far to our complaint about this did not address this issue and we have now written again to ask that they address the complaint properly. We would appreciate your interest and support in ensuring accountability in an organisation funded by government.
On behalf of EBSWA
ATTACHED: 1 EBSWA Letter of complaint to CAFCASS
2 Response by CAFCASS
3 EBSWA letter to CAFCASS seeking response to complaint