Rumours include a single case worker handling over 170 abductions. Also that the unit itself had been closed, and its work absorbed within the Foreign Office. I do not know if these rumours are true, so I thought it worth checking via a Freedom of Information Act request. The request was submitted on 23rd October.
The information request asked the following questions:
- Has the Child Abduction Unit experienced staffing reductions within the past two years or are there plans for cuts, and would you confirm the staffing levels in that unit in 2012, 2013 and budgeted staffing levels for 2014?
- In 2012, 2013 and with regard to planned resourcing for 2014, how many FCO staff were/are exclusively working on child abduction cases?
- In 2012, 2013 and with regard to planned resourcing for 2014, how many staff have international child abduction work as part of their overall duties within the FCO?
- Are there plans for cuts to staff, resources or financial budgets in either the Child Abduction Unit or ICACU (within the MoJ)?
- Is there any truth to rumours that the Child Abduction Unit within the FCO has either been closed, been absorbed within another department within the FCO, or absorbed within the FCO as a whole?
The response so far is that the Foreign Office does hold the information I've requested, however they've engaged the 'public interest test', and 'have not yet reached a decision on where the balance of the public interest lies'. A further update will come by 18th December. The reply can be read at http://www.thecustodyminefield.com/reports/FoI_Request_Ref_0999-13_-_Michael_Robinson_-_PIT_Letter.pdf
The public interest, to me, is quite clear, and no doubt parents, lawyers and charities involved in abduction cases will be similarly interested. In instances of child abduction (where the number of abductions are increasing), has the Government cut resources to assist in recovery, and if yes, by how much? I'll publish further updates on 18th December.