‘Poor treatment’ of Cafcass board member may deter new applicants

The former board member of the Children and Families Court Advisory
and Support Service at the centre of a whistleblowing dispute fears
her poor treatment could put others off serving in similar roles.

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 after lord chancellor
Lord Falconer tried to force her to resign – and subsequently
suspended her for refusing to do so – for giving critical evidence
about Cafcass to a House of Commons constitutional affairs select
committee inquiry.

She was speaking after the parliamentary standards and privileges
committee ruled last week that Falconer, a senior civil servant,
and former chair of Cafcass Anthony Hewson had breached
parliamentary rules because the decision to discipline Weleminsky
was based partly on her decision to give evidence to the DCA

Despite her treatment, Weleminsky has reapplied for board
membership because she feels there are issues still to be
addressed. She added:”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’.”

The Department for Education and Skills is, according to some
sources, already finding it difficult to recruit a new board for
Cafcass due to a lack of suitable applicants.

Anna Myers, deputy director of whistleblowers’ organisation Public
Concern at Work, said Weleminsky’s case could put the best
candidates off applying for board membership, but also felt it
highlighted wider issues such as whether board members should be

Falconer based his decision on a dossier on Weleminsky compiled by
Hewson 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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