The welfare of children will be brought closer to the family court system as key safeguarding organisation Cafcass joins the Ministry of Justice, Family Justice Minister Simon Hughes has announced. This ensures all court-based agencies are aligned within the same Government department.
Cafcass was set up on 1 April 2001 under the provisions of the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act, which brought together the family court services previously provided by the Family Court Welfare Service, the Guardian ad Litem Service and the Children's Division of the Official Solicitor's Office.
Cafcass aims to help children and young people who are going through care or adoption proceedings, or whose parents have separated and are unable to agree about future arrangements for their children. Cafcass ensures that children's welfare is put first during court proceedings.
Cafcass was previously accountable to Michael Gove, MP, the Secretary of State for Education in the Department for Education.
Family Justice Minister Simon Hughes said:
'Today the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) becomes part of the Ministry of Justice.
We are reforming the family justice system to make sure welfare of children is at its heart and I am delighted to welcome Cafcass as the newest full member of our Ministry of Justice family.
The work Cafcass does in supporting vulnerable children and making sure their voice is heard in court proceedings is essential. With Cafcass from now on at the heart of government work on family and children issues in the Ministry of Justice, I believe we can and will improve the work done by our courts to give children and all responsible for them the best possible service.'
Today's transfer follows the Family Justice Review's recommendation in 2011 that Cafcass join the Ministry of Justice to ‘bring court social work functions closer to the court process'.
Chief Executive of Cafcass Anthony Douglas CBE said:
'We have worked closely with MoJ and DfE colleagues ahead of this transfer to ensure continuity of service and to maximise the opportunities it presents. The move is an opportunity to strengthen the perspectives of children in wider MoJ policy. I am pleased with the positive response we have had to our initial ideas about how we might do this together.
We will maintain the strongest possible links, both on the ground and at a strategic level, with DfE and with local authorities after the transfer.
On our front line it will be business as usual. Our move to the MOJ will not signify any changes to the way we work and they will be strong supporters of what we do and the way in which we are working with all of our partners to improve the lives of some of the most vulnerable children in the country.'
CAFCASS Cymru will remain under Welsh Government.
For more information about Cafcass please visit their website.