Children and parents win right to claim against CAFCASS

The high court has granted permission (11 September) to a number
of children and parents (R (on the application of ‘R’, Perkins and
Keogh) v CAFCASS) to bring a judicial review claim against the
Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) in
relation to delays by the service in providing guardians to
children in family proceedings.

Since the establishment of new methods of remunerating guardians
instructed in family proceedings, CAFCASS has had difficulty
keeping and recruiting guardians for the service. The result has
been, despite government guidance and orders by the family
proceedings court, delays in appointing guardians at the crucial
early hearings in care cases. This has led to interim care orders
made without the benefit of information from a guardian on behalf
of the children involved.

The families in this case argue that the failure of CAFCASS to
provide guardians at an early stage is a breach of their statutory
duty and of the children’s human rights under article 6(1) (a
right to a fair hearing within a reasonable time) and article 8
(right to respect for family life). The children seek a declaration
from the court and damages from CAFCASS.

The Lord Chancellor’s Department (as CAFCASS’s
funders) have been served with court papers as an “interested
party”, and Mr Justice Scott Baker ordered that the case be heard
as soon as possible after 1 November 2002.

Comment: The judge was of the view that the problem of the lack
of guardians needed to be sorted out as soon as possible. The
involvement of the Lord Chancellor’s Department will help to
focus attention on what needs to be done to properly fund and
organise guardians for very vulnerable children.

Stephen Cragg

Doughty Street Chambers

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