Families “left in limbo” as they wait for new programme to be introduced
The Ministry of Justice recently decided to replace the existing Domestic Abuse Perpetrator Programme (DAPP) with a beneficial new programme that will better meet the needs of affected families.
While current contracts will not end until 31st March 2023, referrals to the DAPP ceased in June 2022. There is currently no replacement programme to assist those families where a perpetrator meets the criteria.
It is understood that work is being done to put a new programme in place but, in the meantime, many families up and down the country will be left in limbo.
What is DAPP and was it successful?
In child arrangement proceedings involving domestic abuse, the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) sometimes recommend that a perpetrator attend an accredited DAPP before making any recommendations for contact arrangements.
CAFCASS referrals to the DAPP were often only viewed as appropriate where it was considered the perpetrator had accepted responsibility for their behaviour, rather than continuing to dispute any findings of abuse, and had shown a genuine willingness to improve.
In these cases, successful completion of the programme could have a significant and positive impact on all of the parties, including the children.
In cases where a perpetrator chooses to attend a similar course without being ordered to do so by the court, it can be a cause for concern. This is because the perpetrator may only be engaging to achieve the aim of progressing the contact arrangements, rather than to focus on the abusive behaviour itself.
There is a greater risk of manipulation, with insufficient or misleading information being given for the reason for attendance, and without the course provider having access to the appropriate documentation so they have a clear understanding of the issues.
What does the change mean for those affected by domestic abuse within families?
While the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) may still recommend a perpetrator attend a course before contact can be progressed, there is no approved or appropriate provision that the perpetrator can attend.
Perpetrators will be able attend to whatever courses might be available, but it will ultimately be up to the court to decide the motivation for attendance on that particular course and whether contact should progress in circumstances some may deem unsafe. Therefore, that contact may only be able to continue on a supervised or indirect basis.
Either of those outcomes will be unsatisfactory for one of the parties and it is unknown when replacement provision may be put in place.
Unfortunately, there seems to be no straightforward solution to this issue in the meantime and this will require careful consideration with legal advisors in each case depending upon the particular circumstances.
Contact a specialist child arrangements solicitor
If your family is affected by the absence of a DAPP programme, our solicitors can help you find the best way to proceed. Contact a member of our family team on 0800 422 0123 or get in touch online by requesting a consultation.
Adam Maguire is a partner in the family team at Clarke Willmott, a national law firm with offices in London, Manchester, Taunton, Cardiff, Southampton, Bristol and Birmingham.
For more information visit www.clarkewillmott.com