CAFCASS have recently published their strategy plan for 2019-2023 confirming that they want children to have a service which is right for their individual needs and leaves them in a better position than before their involvement, but who are CAFCASS and what do they do?
CAFCASS is the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service and they represent children in family court cases in England. Their duty is to safeguard and promote the welfare of children going through the family justice system. They do this by ensuring that children’s needs, wishes and feelings are put first, making sure that children’s voices are heard at the heart of the family court setting, and that decisions are made in their best interests. Essentially, they provide an independent voice for children in the family courts.
CAFCASS ensure that arrangements proposed to the court by local authorities (in public law) and parents or other family members (in private law) are in children’s best interests. Children and young people are at the centre of their work.
CAFCASS operate within the law set by Parliament (Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000) and under the rules and directions of the family courts, however it is important to note that they are completely independent of the courts, social services, education and health authorities and all similar agencies.
There are times when experienced Family Court Advisers may be asked by the court to work with families and then advise the court on what they consider to be in the best interests of the children involved in proceedings. CAFCASS may be asked to prepare reports and provide recommendations on issues of how children should share their time between separated parents. There are also some occasions when CAFCASS become more involved in a case and may be appointed as a Guardian to formally represent children in a case. They will then become a party to case and will attend all court hearings as long as the Guardian appointment lasts.
For more information on CAFCASS please visit their website.