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Published On: June 25, 2021 | Blog | 0 comments

Provision of Domestic Abuse Perpetrator Programmes (DAPPs) and the impact of Covid-19

As a result of the significant impact of the pandemic on the provision of DAPPs in England, Cafcass has agreed a temporary process which will be kept under review until the system has recovered sufficiently to enable DAPP provision to be reinstated. Currently, a backlog of several hundred cases has accrued.

Cafcass describes the purpose of a DAPP as being ‘to help people who have been abusive towards their partners or ex-partners to change their behaviour and develop respectful, non-abusive relationships.’ A DAPP can be ordered by the court in cases where allegations of abuse against one parent have been admitted or the court has made findings against that parent at a fact finding hearing. A DAPP will typically take place in groups of 8-12 participants and sessions take place weekly over around six months.  Every DAPP has a parallel service that supports partners and ex-partners at risk from domestic abuse and this service is offered to them.

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the provision of DAPPs has been adversely affected and a number of DAPP providers have had to reduce or suspend their offer. Cafcass have given consideration to the delivery of remote DAPPs, but have stated that there is not yet sufficient evidence to support the adoption of a remote model.

A new temporary process, which was announced by Cafcass on 12 May 2021, is as follows:

  1. Cafcass has issued with immediate effect, temporary guidance to support Family Court Advisers when making recommendations progressing cases in the current context where DAPP provision is severely limited.2. Cafcass is establishing a small, dedicated team to review the circumstances of families for whom a DAPP has been ordered, but not yet completed, prioritising first those for whom a DAPP has not yet commenced.  These case reviews will involve a Family Court Adviser reviewing the child’s file, speaking with adults and children to re-assess the current risks and options, taking account of the new guidance.   The child will be given the opportunity to write to the court explaining the impact for them and their wishes and feelings.

    3. Cases that have been reviewed, Cafcass will request the court’s permission to file a further report, and there may need to be a further hearing to consider this.

These reports may recommend either:

 a. That the case remains on the waiting list as no safe and beneficial arrangements for time with the child are possible without this provision, with appropriate ongoing oversight including a process of monthly review; or

 b. That the application to court for the existing order for a DAPP can be discharged and an alternative plan (informed by the reassessment) can be put in place: this could be a final order of no contact, a final order for contact with a safety plan and other provision, or an interim order for ‘a step-by-step approach to the progression of contact arrangements’, with a further review and an addendum ordered. From 1 May 2021, Child Contact Interventions commissioned by Cafcass on behalf of the Ministry of Justice were replaced with the new Improving Child and Family Arrangements (ICFA) service.  The ICFA service is designed to be a more tailored and less prescriptive approach to meet the needs of individual children and their families.

           4. In areas where there is capacity to commence new individuals in face-to-face DAPP                                programmes, families identified at 3a above will take priority, under new arrangements for                    oversight, which are currently being developed.  Cafcass will only start making referral                            recommendations in reports for new cases once those families with delayed proceedings                            have been able to progress, unless a DAPP is seen to be the most suitable option. In this                              situation, the family will be added to the DAPP waiting list.

The reviews to be undertaken by Cafcass will require extremely careful consideration of the risks present in each individual case. Some cases may be more finely balanced than others, however the child(ren)’s welfare must be paramount.

It might be queried how many cases can be suitably referred for an alternative to a DAPP and to what extent, if alternative options are considered appropriate in some cases, this approach should be adopted in the future. It is understood that a remote version of the DAPP is being developed with RESPECT, but this is not yet ready for release. It will be interesting to see how effective this is and whether a remote programme could provide access to a greater number of participants in the longer term. Providing the programme in a remote format could be more affordable and convenient for both providers and participants, although it is possible that participants may not engage fully on a remote basis, therefore reducing the efficacy of the programme.

*Disclaimer: The information on the Anthony Gold website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. It is provided without any representations or warranties, express or implied.*

Victoria Brown is a Senior Associate Solicitor in the Family team, who practices in all areas of private family law, including divorce, dissolution, financial and children arrangements. If you would like to discuss these issues please contact her at or on 020 7940 4060

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