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Cafcass publishes a new set of guides to deal with complex children cases

The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (‘Cafcass’) has published a new assessment framework to support its Family Court Advisers (‘FCAs’, also known as family court reporters, or court welfare officers) in assessing the harmful impact of a range of complex case factors on the children they work with in private law cases.

The Child Impact Assessment Framework (‘CIAF’) is “a structured framework that sets out how children may experience parental separation and how this can be understood and assessed at Cafcass to inform better outcomes for children.” It is intended to help FCAs in the timely identification and accurate assessment of what is happening for each child, and to provide consistent and balanced reporting to the court when advising it on what Cafcass considers to be in the child’s best interests.

The CIAF brings together new and existing guidance and tools into four guides which FCAs can use to assess the impact on the child of different case factors, including:

Domestic abuse, where children have been harmed directly or indirectly, for example from the impact of coercive control.
Conflict which is harmful to the child, such as a long-running court case or mutual hostility between parents which can become intolerable for the child.
Child refusal or resistance to spending time with one of their parents , which may be due to a range of justified reasons, or could be an indicator of the harm caused when a child has been alienated by one parent against the other for no good reason.
Other forms of harmful parenting, due to factors like substance misuse or severe mental health difficulties.

All FCAs dealing with private law cases will receive mandatory training in applying the framework. The training is due to be rolled out across Cafcass service areas from this month, with all practitioners expected to be trained by March 2019.

Commenting upon the CIAF Sarah Parsons, Cafcass’ Assistant Director and Principal Social Worker, said:

“I’m delighted that our guides and tools are now available for Cafcass staff and all interested parties to read and use. They will further improve how our practitioners assess private law cases, and also help our family justice partners and the court to recognise and act on children’s experiences when families are in private law proceedings.”

What does all of this mean for parents involved in proceedings concerning arrangements for their children? Well, if any of the four factors listed above are raised within the proceedings (and it going to be a common occurrence that at least one of the factors is an issue), then the CIAF will give an indication as to how the FCA will approach the case. This is likely to be of crucial importance to the outcome of the case. After all, the FCA will in most cases make a recommendation to the court as to what order or orders to make, and the court is highly likely to follow that recommendation.

In the circumstances it could be very useful for any parent involved in such a case to familiarise themselves with the relevant parts of the CIAF. The CIAF can be found on the Cafcass website, here. If you scroll to the bottom of the page you will see links related to the four case factors listed above. Clicking those links will (after a couple more clicks) take you to a page with links to the relevant tools and guidance.

Obviously the tools and guides are designed to be used by trained FCAs. Nevertheless, I think that most parents could glean useful information from them, which should help them to understand what the FCA is doing, and what factors are important to their decision making process. Of course, if you have a lawyer acting for you they will be able to assist you with anything you don’t understand. The guides may even help parents who are ‘responsible’ (in some way) for the particular factor, and assist them in understanding why their behaviour has been harmful to their child.

John Bolch often wonders how he ever became a family lawyer. He no longer practises, but has instead earned a reputation as one of the UK's best-known family law bloggers, with his content now supporting our divorce lawyers and child custody lawyers

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  1. karen says:

    It would be lovely if this works, but my MARAC and proof of years of financial abuse by my ex-husband was denied by CAFCASS. They blamed me for the child suffering even when I sought immediate medical help on her return from her father. Coercive control is continued by CAFCASS and the Courts as they don’t look at the history. Years of older children being moved from school to school, an older sibling seeing social services was seen as happening in the past. Instead of looking seeing that there is a history, and that issues are still occurring.
    What makes it worse is that even when the Royal British Legion raised concerns and a GP raised concerns with a different social services department (as we had moved out of the previous area) they were both ignored. It seems that mistreatment of an animal is deemed more abhorrent that mistreatment and neglect of a child. As a child needs contact with its father even when he is the one who refuses to work and provide for the child, and caused the financial debts.

  2. A says:

    If this works it will be a miracle. Cafcass decided in my case that the child wishes and feelings where not his own so therefore not relevant. Even with doctors and school evidence of being unhappy. The Cafcass officer was biased towards one parent over the other. Mental abuse, physical showing the child fire arms, head injury from a bike due to neglect,controlling all ignored. No cultural awareness, these children are seen for 2 hours and then Cafcass make life changing decisions that for me has perminately damaged my child and separated the family. I am know dealing with a child who is confused has talked about not wanting to be here anymore at the age of 8.
    That’s what your system has done and court. They couldn’t even get the name right on paper and in court that’s how much he matters.

    • Rian says:

      What do you think was the reason for changing your child’s name?
      In Family proceeding Court my grandsons birth certified name was changed by LA to cover-up his complicated starved of oxygen birth, and that he needed help from birth, the only reason he came to their attention, and the need for cover-up of negligence at birth by the hospital staff in which he was born, then blaming his parents for damage they had caused

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