The President of the Family Division, Sir Nicholas Wall, and the Chief Executive of Cafcass, Anthony Douglas, have announced that Interim Guidance first introduced in October 2009 designed to provide short-term assistance to Cafcass, will not be formally renewed when the most recent agreement comes to an end on the 30 September 2011.
On 1 October 2009 and again on 1 April 2010 Sir Mark Potter P and the Chief Executives of HMCS (as it then was) and Cafcass entered into agreements for what were described as "short-term measures" and which became known as his "Interim Guidance". Each was designed initially to last six months.
The aim of the Guidance was to put in place measures to address the case backlog and unprecedented demand that Cafcass were faced with, while preventing backlogs arising in respect of new work. It was meant to be a temporary solution to help in an emergency situation and was initially intended to cease to have effect on the 31 March 2010. However, as the high levels of case referrals continued, last September Sir Nicholas Wall agreed to extend the agreement by a further year.
A review of the agreement concluded that it "has been successful in achieving its aims, which is demonstrably clear from the statistical evidence, supported by concurring opinion from frontline practitioners collected through an online survey."
Although the review recommended maintaining the agreement, the President and Cafcass felt that the arrangements for good communication and working relations can be maintained without it.
In a joint message announcing the decision, Sir Nicholas and Mr Douglas said: "We are both of the view that the good practice generated by the [Interim Guidance] and by the Agreement is now well established and should continue without the need for any formal agreement between us.
"Thus the spirit of the Agreement will continue to operate: local discussions and initiatives will continue and local agreements or protocols will remain in place or new ones be drawn up as the need arises. We are confident that Judges and magistrates hearing cases under the Children Act will continue to manage according to the Public Law Outline and the Private Law Programme and will continue to assist guardians in the manner envisaged in paragraphs 9 to 11 of the Agreement and set out in the final paragraph of the joint message which we sent with the Agreement on 1 October 2010."