Weekly Family Law Update September 26, 2020

Vulnerable children, a fake DNA test and the latest Cafcass figures

Children’s Commissioner warning over vulnerable children

Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, has warned that vulnerable children who require urgent support will “slip out of view” because of the impact of coronavirus.

Ms Longfield said: “After the school six-week holidays it’s always the case that there are spikes in referrals to social services for children so, after six months, we should expect there to be a really significant increase in the number of children who there are concerns about.

“It will need investment, be it from the police and crime commissioners or indeed from central government to really look at long term, I would say youth work, with these individual children because there’s a danger that in five years’ time we look back and there’s a generation of very vulnerable teens that we let just slip out of view at this time with terrible long term consequences.”

A government spokesperson responded by saying: “The safety and wellbeing of the most vulnerable children has always been our priority, which is why throughout the pandemic schools, nurseries and colleges remained open to them.

“Our advice for schools is clear that they should continue to identify and report any abuse or harm for children in schools as well as those learning remotely.”

Man jailed after faking DNA test to avoid child support

A man has been jailed for faking a DNA test so that he could deny being the father of his two sons to the Child Maintenance Service (‘CMS’).

In October 2015 and February 2016, the Service had received applications from two women claiming that the man was the father of their sons, and requesting support.  The man denied he was the father of the children, and DNA tests were arranged. However, the man used a DNA mouth swab from a friend.

When the tests came back negative the CMS contacted the two women and said the man was not the biological father of the two boys and could not be asked to pay child support.   But the women contested this, and an investigation discovered that the DNA sample belonged to someone else. A prosecution followed. The man pleaded guilty and was jailed for 18 months.

A Senior Crown Prosecutor said that the man “is a liar and a cheat who has gone to extensive lengths to deny the parentage of his two sons. Investigations showed that he had been at the birth of both of the boys and his signature was on their birth certificates. Indeed he seems to have played a part in their lives for a period. But that changed and he has now turned to criminality to avoid his obligations to his children. His apparent indignation at the work of the Child Maintenance Service to get to the truth is audacious to say the least. His deception has no doubt caused distress and hurt to the women and their children and he is now behind bars. The Crown Prosecution Service hopes that this case shows that those who try and lie and cheat their way out of their responsibilities will face the consequences.”

Latest Cafcass figures for children cases

The latest figures for public law (including care) applications and private law demand, for August 2020, have been published by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (‘Cafcass’), the organisation that looks after the interests of children involved in family proceedings.

In that month the service received 1,459 new public law cases, featuring 2,384 children; this represents a decrease of 2.7% (40 public law cases) and a decrease of 3% (74 children) on the 1,499 new public law cases received and the 2,458 children on those cases in August 2019.

As to private law demand, Cafcass received 3,748 new private law cases in August 2020 which is 14 cases (0.4%) more than the same period in 2019. These cases involved 5,623 children, which is 103 (1.8%) more children than August 2019.

These figures, being similar to those from the same month last year, do appear to show that, despite the pandemic, the family justice system is still operating at its normal level, at least in relation to children cases.