CAFCASS’s role in your private children matter and their protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic

Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) are an independent public body who provide family court services. Their role is to safeguard and promote the welfare of children who are the subject of Children Act proceedings by undertaking checks and enquiries to inform the court of any risk of harm to those children. Depending on the age of the children, a CAFCASS officer may also meet with them to understand their needs, wishes and feelings. Once the CAFCASS officer has completed their enquiries, they will prepare a report to the court containing their recommendations. Their recommendations will be based on what they consider is in the children’s best interests.

Recently CAFCASS has published two new protocols setting out its approach to returning to in-person work with children and families as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. CAFCASS have confirmed that they will use both remote video technology and in-person visits to speak with children. They have stated that “seeing” the child remotely has not in any way hindered their work and has continued to allow them to work effectively. The decision determining if in-person or remote work is in the best interest of the child will be made by the appointed CAFCASS officer and they will ensure that their rationale for choosing such platform is understood by the child and their family. Please note that this guidance only applies to England; CAFCASS Cymru is currently reviewing their procedures and we hope to have a substantial update for Wales soon.

CAFCASS notes that in many circumstances it is essential for a child to see the CAFCASS officer in-person. In these cases, they will act in accordance with Government guidelines to ensure that the health and safety of all individuals is not placed at risk. The appointed CAFCASS officer will liaise with the children and families who require an in-person visit in order to decide which location is the safest and most appropriate. This may include their home, outside spaces such as parks or one of CAFCASS’s offices.

If you require any advice about CAFCASS’s involvement in your private children matter or Child Arrangements Orders generally, please contact the office on 02920 197203 to arrange an initial consultation.