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Following a speech in which Sir Nicholas Wall's warned that separating parents risk damaging their children through their ongoing contact and residence disputes, Cafcass has highlighted the benefits of court-ordered Separated Parents Information Programmes (PIPs).
Anthony Douglas, Cafcass Chief Executive said: "For many parents the pain of separation or divorce makes it impossible for them to put aside their differences and think about what's best for their children. What these programmes do is make parents more aware of the upset they may be causing their children, often without realising it. The programmes provide practical ways of making post-separation parenting joint, and constructively shared."
The family courts are increasingly ordering that parents attend the programmes following recommendations from Cafcass workers. Over two and a half thousand parents have attended the course since April this year. In a Cafcass survey on PIPs, 59% of respondents said that attending the programme had changed their behaviour or that of their ex-partner in a variety of ways including listening more to their children and jointly attempting to avoid conflict and confrontations in front of their children.
The courses are usually run over two sessions by providers running services from 360 locations across England. Roni Jones, Chief Executive Officer of Relate for Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch, which runs the programme said: "If parties are arguing then our view has been that they need this course and they need it at the earliest opportunity. The courts have seen that it works and that's why ordering rates have more than doubled since 2009 and are likely to triple by the end of this year."
Ms Jones said one of the most powerful parts of the programme involved participants watching a video where children talked about their experiences.
"Getting parents to see their behaviour through the eyes of someone else is a powerful motivator of change. Often people don't see the harm that they're causing until someone else points it out to them, tactfully and gently. If we can help people to continue to parent effectively, even though a relationship has ended badly, then we have done our job."
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