As part of its report on reforms of private law, the Private Law Working Group has approved an expectation document prepared by Cafcass.
Cafcass Family Court Advisers (FCAs) work within the parameters of the Child Arrangements Programme and other private law-related practice directions and guidance, to carry out work as directed by the court, having regard to the principle of the "overriding objective".
Cafcass' principal functions, in respect of family proceedings, are to: safeguard and promote the welfare of the children; give advice to the court about any application made to it in such proceedings; make provision for the children to be represented; and provide information, advice and other support for the children and their families. In addition, when a Cafcass officer is given cause to suspect that a child who is a subject of proceedings is at risk of harm he/she has a duty to undertake a risk assessment and to provide it to the court.
In private law cases the court's requirements comprise two principal forms: in section 8 (Children Act 1989) applications the provision of safeguarding information in the form of a letter and attendance at FHDRA and, if further work is required, preparing section 7 (Children Act 1989) welfare reports. In addition, the court may also decide to consult Cafcass about the possible appointment of an officer of the service as children's guardian, under rule 16.4 (Family Procedure Rules 2010).
Court orders requesting section 7 reports or other work from Cafcass are complied with in accordance with the terms of the orders. Cafcass supports active case management by undertaking work as directed by the court within the parameters of the Child Arrangements Plan.
The document is entitled Cafcass Contribution to Private Law Proceedings: Key Elements of Good Practice and is available to download here.
The Private Law Working Group was set up by the President of the Family Division in August 2013 under the chairmanship of Mr Justice Cobb. Its report, which has just been released, recommends the replacement of the Private Law Programme with an entirely new Child Arrangements Programme. The Working Group has prepared further draft documents and also approved an expectation document prepared by Cafcass.