Following pilot schemes, Cafcass has now launched its new “Co-parenting Hub” a free, online resource which draws together programmes, articles and tools for separated parents.
Now, full disclosure, I’m neither a parent nor a separated parent, but I signed up and gave the hub a whirl to see what it offers our clients – what follows is essentially a review.
To be honest, I expected to be disappointed. I thought that the Hub might be clunky or patronising or so full of bumph that it was enough to put any client off using it, but it’s actually very good. At times it is a bit odd, such as when you rate how well you are doing on your set goals by clicking on faces with different emotions, but actually these features put it a cut above the dull, purely functional public service websites that we are used to.
The Hub was created by Cafcass, The Ministry of Justice and OnePlusOne, and it puts all the resources with which family lawyers will be familiar in one place. Parents can access information about the Separated Parents Information Programme, complete the short “Getting It Right for Children” Programme, and create parenting plans all via the Hub. They can also, as mentioned above, set private parenting and co-parenting goals and measure their progress.
The information about the Separated Parents Information Programme is pretty comprehensive though, of course, parents are only sent off to the programme through a court order. This is still a good place to direct a nervous parent towards though as it answers all the frequently asked questions, such as “will my ex be there?”.
Getting It Right
The Getting It Right for Children programme is all about communication between separated parents to improve their parenting relationship, but mainly improve the child or children’s experience of co-parenting. There’s an introduction, three interactive activities, a bonus activity and a completion article. The activities require parents to watch videos, consider what they have seen, particularly from the child’s perspective and think about steps in good decision-making. I have to admit, I didn’t finish doing the programme as it was slightly more involved than I expected. This was the part of the Hub that I felt was most in danger of being patronising, and whilst the brightly-coloured cover page with the activity links does look like something from BBC Bitesize, the activities themselves are thought-provoking and adult, but not so arduous as to be off-putting.
The Interactive Parenting Plan is also useful. It is separated into subsections such as “education” and “money and the children” and creates a completely bespoke agreement. Beyond some prompts and the odd editable drafted section (such as in “living and childcare arrangements”), the plan is left up to the individuals. One parent can suggest part of the plan and then “commit” to it, which sends their suggestion over to the other parent, who can edit it or agree to it. An approved commitment is then locked for 24 hours, preventing further edits, with the idea that parents will think carefully about the impact of changing an agreed part of the plan. This links in well with the principles in the Getting It Right programme, which emphasises taking time to think about decisions and making them calmly.
There’s a real focus on adult-learning on this hub, which is complemented nicely by the personal goal feature. The Hub suggests areas to work on such as “to better manage my feelings about my ex-partner”, but there aren’t many suggested goals at the moment and I couldn’t see an easy way to add a completely bespoke goal. Hopefully this will be improved, because it’s a nice touch, especially when a parent is going through a Court or mediation process. A parent can use this feature to assess how they are doing in relation to their goals using a five point feelings scale – I am currently “apathetic” about managing my disagreements, for example. The other nice link here is that once you have set a goal, you can click through from it to see articles which relate to your goal and might help you to meet it. Lots of stuff like this is well thought through, but a choice of more than six goals is probably needed.
The Hub’s press release at its launch said, “The Co-Parent Hub has been launched in part to support families during this period of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, which has caused face-to-face services to stop”. There are certainly plenty of Covid-19 related articles and an easy-to-read guidance document on the hub, all grouped together in one subsection. They cover a real range, from advice on making decisions during lockdown, to remote working tips and resources for parents of children with special needs.
There’s an abundance of short articles on this site, from those explaining mediation to one explaining Cafcass’s role in listening to children. Often the articles are very short and simply link through to another website, but hopefully the Hub will be developed further and more and more put into this one spot.
If you have a private law practice and are looking for a one stop shop website, which explains the basics in layperson’s terms for your client, this is your place. It is especially good as a resource after an initial meeting or a court hearing when a client might have questions which crop up later.
Millie Benson – Click here to view profile