Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service

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Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service
Abbreviation Cafcass
Formation 1 April 2001
Type Non-departmental public body
Purpose Reporting to Courts on the Safeguarding and welfare of children involved in Public and Private law Family proceedings
Region served
England
Chief Executive
Anthony Douglas[1]
Parent organization
Ministry of Justice
Website www.cafcass.gov.uk

The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) is a non-departmental public body in England [1] set up to promote the welfare of children and families involved in family court. It was formed in April 2001 under the provisions of the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000 and is accountable to Parliament through the Ministry of Justice. Cafcass is independent of the courts, social services, education, health authorities and all similar agencies.

Activities[edit]

Court proceedings for which Cafcass may provide support include:[citation needed]

  • Parental applications under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989, such as Prohibited Steps orders
  • Parents wishing to end contact between a child and another parent / grandparent
  • Parental separation/divorce custodial arrangements
  • Adoption
  • Children who are subject to a Social Services application for care/supervision

History[edit]

The provisions of court welfare services were the subject of two reviews. The Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR)[2] and a subsequent review[3] conducted jointly by the Home Office, the Lord Chancellor’s Department and the Department of Health concluded that a new integrated service subsuming these functions could improve service to the courts, better safeguard the interests of children, reduce wasteful overlaps and increase efficiency.[4]

The services spanned England and Wales and included: Family Court Welfare (FCW) (54 areas); the Guardian ad litem and Reporting Officer (GALRO) Service (59 panels) and the children’s work of the Official Solicitor’s (OS) Department.

The Home Office stated: "The review announced by the Home Secretary on 16 July 1997 into the relationship between the Prison Service and probation service may herald important changes to the structure, organisation, management, working practices, human resources and funding of the probation service. Both the prison-probation review and the Comprehensive Spending Review should result in steps which should improve public confidence in community penalties."[5]

The Home Office Prison-Probation review consultation paper[6] did not mention family court welfare given that family court welfare was to move to a new unified family court welfare service.[7]

The government then announced a unified family court welfare service.[8] Among many key to be addressed were ensuring:

  • Cafcass statutory basis;
  • Funding to cover start-up, transitional and ongoing costs;
  • Change management of the merger of 114 autonomous bodies into a single organisation
  • Maintenance of current casework.

These were addressed by a Project Team.[9]

The Criminal Justice and Court Services Bill[10] was led by the Home Office as most of the Bill’s provisions concerned the establishment of a National Probation Service for England and Wales. A few parts concerned Cafcass arrangements.[11]

The Bill completed its Parliamentary stages in Autumn 2000.[12] The Act’s Cafcass provisions were set to commence on 1 April 2001.[13] The short timeline created problems that took Cafcass years to resolve.

Cafcass functions were to “(a)safeguard and promote the welfare of the children,(b)give advice to the court about any application made to it in such proceedings,(c) make provision for children to be represented in such proceedings,(d) provide information, advice and other support for the children and their families.”[14]

Subordinate legislation set out the duties of Cafcass practitioners.

In 2004 Cafcass published a policy and procedure to do with domestic violence.

As of 1 April 2005, responsibility for the functions of Cafcass in Wales became the responsibility of the National Assembly for Wales.

In 2005/06 Cafcass produced the consultation document Every Day Matters that led to a draft set of National Standards. These standards set out what service users, partner agencies and practitioners in the family justice system could expect. The Standards updated the 2003 Cafcass Service Standards and Principles, and after piloting in the North-East Region, were phased in from 1 April 2007.

The standards noted the importance of service-user feedback and the active engagement and participation of children in their case planning process. Cafcass asserted the importance of including children's views in the decision making processes involved in court proceedings. Young people could offer a "Needs, Wishes and Feelings" statement directly to the judge. However, Cafcass admitted[according to whom?] that they do not conform to any National Standards.

The Children's Rights Team spearheaded the formation of a Young People's Board for Cafcass. This Board consists of 12 young people with experience of Cafcass's services. Since the Board's formation in August 2006 they helped to shape Cafcass policies and procedures.

On 1 April 2014, responsibility for Cafcass in England transferred from the Department for Education to the Ministry of Justice.

Baroness Claire Tyler of Enfield is the current Chair of the Cafcass Board, which includes eleven other members.[2].

Anthony Douglas is the current Chief Executive and Accounting Officer, supported by the Corporate Decisions Group, nine regional managers and the Director of Cafcass Cymru.

Criticism[edit]

In 2008 an Ofsted inspection of Cafcass service users in South Yorkshire concluded that case records often did not show how Cafcass had come to its conclusions.[15] In a post-inspection review in 2009, Ofsted found that in four of nine recommendations, progress was inadequate.[16]

In 2009, Ofsted inspected Cafcass: Lancashire and Cumbria service area (including Blackburn with Darwen and Blackpool). They found Cafcass to be inadequate in equality, diversity, value for money, complaints handling, service responsiveness, performance management, self-evaluation, safeguarding children and improving outcomes for children. The report stated that:

"the service area does not ensure that consistent consideration of the impact of family breakdown on outcomes for children is embedded in all aspects of case planning and reporting to court. The impact of ... the service in ensuring that all children are safe or feel safe is inadequate." [17]

In 2009/10 The Annual Report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills found that "(Cafcass) is performing poorly, with four out of the five service areas inspected judged to be inadequate."[18]

In November 2010 a parliamentary Commons Public Affairs Committeefound 'Cafcass as an organisation is not fit for purpose' and 'do not make child based decisions.' [19]

In 2011, presenters to a Justice Select Committee said that Cafcass was 'beyond reform' and 'should be abolished'. [20]

Similar organisations in other countries[edit]

Notes[edit]

^ Cafcass originally covered England and Wales, but on 1 April 2005, Cafcass Cymru was created with responsibility transferred to the Welsh Assembly.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Cafcass Corporate Management Team". CAFCASS. Retrieved 6 September 2008. 
  2. ^ 11 June 1997
  3. ^ Autumn 1997
  4. ^ Footnote 6 paragraph 1.4
  5. ^ Annual report 1998/1999, paragraph 13.15
  6. ^ Prison- Probation Review: Home Office (August 1998)
  7. ^ Support Services in Family Proceedings – Future Organisation of Court Welfare Services (Department of Health, Home Office, Lord Chancellor’s Department, Welsh Office) (July 1998): Consultation closed 13 November 1998.
  8. ^ House of Lords 27 July 1999
  9. ^ The Project Team was drawn from the three relevant government departments supplemented by consultants dealing with, for example, IT, payroll, estates and finance.
  10. ^ Presented to the House of Commons on 15 March 2000.
  11. ^ Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000 Chapter 11 (sections 11-17) and Schedule 2.
  12. ^ Royal Assent 30 November 2000.
  13. ^ Section 80
  14. ^ Section 12 (1)
  15. ^ "More criticism for CAFCASS from Ofsted", Family Law Week.
  16. ^ Letter re. "Post-inspection review: Ofsted inspection of the experience of Cafcass service users in the family courts in South Yorkshire 2008", 23 July 2009.
  17. ^ "Ofsted’s inspection of Cafcass: Lancashire and Cumbria service area", December 2009.
  18. ^ "Press release: The Annual Report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills 2009/10", 23 November 2010. The National Archives.
  19. ^ "Family Law Week: Commons Public Accounts Committee brands Cafcass ‘not fit for purpose’". 
  20. ^ "Family Law Week: Justice Committee told that Cafcass is 'beyond reform'". 

External links[edit]