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Reforms in assessments undertaken by CAFCASS

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Reforms in assessments undertaken by CAFCASS during Children Act Proceedings

If you are a party to Children proceedings, you will be familiar with CAFCASS and the work they undertake within the course of the proceedings.

CAFCASS are Court appointed welfare officers that are instructed to undertake various safeguarding assessments during Children Act proceedings. CAFCASS are often described as “the eyes and ears of the Court”.

When CAFCASS receive notice of a case from the Court, they investigate “what is happening for that child?”

CAFCASS have now incorporated a new Child Impact Assessment Framework (CIAF) as of the 31st October 2018. The new framework covers four distinct areas:

  1. Domestic Abuse - Whether the child has been subject to or is likely to be at risk of experiencing some form of abuse whether that be directly or indirectly through manipulation or coercive control.
  2. Conflict which is harmful to the child –Whether the child is caught in the middle of their parents’ animosity and whether as a result they are subject to harm. CAFCASS are no longer using the term “high conflict” but have instead substituted this term with “harmful conflict”. This is because whilst the conflict may be labelled as “high” the impact of that conflict on the child may be low and vice versa.
  3. Child refusal or resistance –Whether there is evidence of parental alienation i.e. of one parent polarising the child against the other parent or whether there are other reasons why the child is showing a resistance to a parent following a separation.
  4. Other forms of harmful parenting – Examples of harmful parenting include parental mental health issues that are assessed as harmful to the child and substance abuse.

Further to an Ofsted critique which stated that CAFCASS should be clearer about their rationale for not identifying any diversity issues for a child,CAFCASS have now revised their approach and have substituted the term “diversity” for “individuality”. Instead of CAFCASS reporting “no diversity issues”, they will now reflect their assessment as unique to that particular child and the child’s family. This approach emphasizes the individuality of each child they work with.

If you need advice in relation to Private Law Children Matters or any other family related matter, please call us and one of our team will be happy to assist you in any way possible.

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