Cafcass is the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service. It is the organisation which ensures that a court is made aware of information from both the police and local authority which may highlight any child protection issues, whether they be in the child’s past or current situation. It is involved in both private and public law cases.
Private law cases can be something along the lines of a couple separating and trying to organise how much contact any children from the relationship will have with the mother and father.
Cases involving public law would be more along the lines of a court having to make the decision as to whether or not a child is taken into care due to an abusive or unsafe situation in the home. In cases like these, the Adviser would act as a guardian in order to advocate for the child in making sure that any local authority plans for the child are safe and suitable. If a Family Court Adviser had any child protection concerns, they would immediately contact the relevant children’s services deaprtment.
The Adviser has to gain as much information as possible from all parents and carers involved as well as the children themselves in order to assess the situation and advise the Court on how it should proceed in the interests of the child. An Adviser can also request that further checks be carried out ie psychological assessments, in order to obtain as complete a picture as possible of a case.
The Adviser will write a report setting out their recommendations to the court based on the evidence gathered through the checks and interviews, outlining a child’s wishes and feelings, hopefully ensuring that their voice is heard by the appropriate decision-maker.