The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service has
admitted that more than a quarter of its premises are shared with
the probation service.
The revelation follows the discovery last month that some young
people who have been sexually abused are forced to share waiting
rooms with sex offenders.
The National Association of Probation Officers has produced
examples of Cafcass clients sharing waiting rooms with people
attending probation group work sessions. These include a girl of 13
in Torquay who had been sexually abused and was found in a waiting
room with offenders.
“Space has been severely cut back in recent years,” a probation
officer in Devon said. “Workers are concerned that the two client
groups still share the same foyer and waiting areas and wish
Cafcass to be moved to separate premises.”
In Eastbourne, East Sussex, sessions for offenders convicted of
domestic violence are offered on the same premises as Cafcass
services. Staff described the situation as “rapidly going from very
difficult to impossible”.
In Worcester, programmes for paedophiles, sex offenders and drug
addicts are run from the same premises as Cafcass services. Plans
to move the probation service out of the building were shelved in
Forty-five of Cafcass’s 162 properties are shared with the
Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of the National
Association of Probation Officers, said: “The issue of
accommodation being provided for criminal rehabilitation must be
resolved without endangering children’s welfare. Steps must be
taken immediately to resolve this situation.”
Anne Chan, Cafcass director of operations, said that every
possible precaution was taken at shared offices to ensure the
safety of Cafcass service users, including separate entrances and
secure access and waiting rooms “where this is possible”.
Chan said visits to Cafcass offices were by appointment only,
and that visitors to shared Cafcass premises should be advised of
the situation in their appointment letter. Alternative meeting
venues can be offered if service users are concerned.
She added that Cafcass had already adopted an accommodation
strategy to move from premises shared with the Probation