Cafcass rebel fears board recruitment crisis

The former board member of Cafcass who was at the centre of a
whistleblowing dispute fears her poor treatment could put others
off serving in similar roles, writes Derren

Judy Weleminsky said she was worried that people experienced in
the workings of the children’s guardian system would be
reluctant to come forward to be board members of Cafcass (Children
and Family Court Advisory and Support Service).

Her concern comes after after the Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer
tried to force her to resign her post – and subsequently suspended
her for refusing to do so – for giving critical evidence
about Cafcass to a constitutional affairs select committee

The parliamentary standards and privileges committee ruled last
week that Falconer, a senior civil servant, and former chairperson
of Cafcass Anthony Hewson had breached parliamentary rules as their
decision to discipline Weleminsky was based partly on her decision
to give evidence to the DCA inquiry.

Despite her treatment, Weleminsky reapplied for board membership
because she felt “a number of issues still need to be

“Cafcass has a very important job to do but it is not
championing the work it does and the independence of
children’s guardians is still being undermined. But I suspect
I will get a letter saying ‘thanks, but no
thanks’,” she added.

The Department for Education and Skills is currently recruiting
a new board for Cafcass, having forced the old board to resign last
year. It said the appointments would be announced shortly, but
sources said the process was being delayed by the lack of
appropriate applicants.

Falconer based his decision on a dossier compiled by Hewson on
Weleminsky, which itself drew on information she gave to the
inquiry. This provides a clear connection between Weleminsky giving
evidence and her being disciplined, the standards and privileges
committee said. “The freedom to give evidence is
absolute,” it states.

A DCA spokesperson said Falconer accepted the committee’s
findings, and had apologised and clarified guidance to civil
servants on parliamentary privilege.

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