Cafcass to write fewer reports and focus on clearing case backlog

The nation’s most needy children are likely to benefit
under new proposals to shake-up the family justice system in
England and Wales, writes Shirley

Cafcass, The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support
Service, is to have its focus shifted in an effort to cut the
backlog of public cases that deal with care proceedings or
adoption. To make this possible, it will deal with fewer private
family law cases and no longer write 30,000 dispute reports a

The organisation’s budget was boosted by £12m to
£107m for 2004-05 under the Spending Review to meet the

Because of a staff shortage, Cafcass workers will cross over both
public and private cases and are expected to take on a mediation
role in an attempt to steer parents disputing over contact away
from the courts. Only those with allegations of abuse will be dealt
with in court, according to a government consultation published
this week.

Funding for contact centres is also of prime importance and is due
to be announced by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES)

But the government’s quest to speed up court cases could be
putting children at risk, warned voluntary organisations.

Women’s Aid and NCH children’s charity say the
proposals will be “disastrous” without sufficient
funding. Also, there no clear emphasis on specialist services,
where children can build trusting relationships in order to
disclose abuse, the groups said.

Children’s policy officer for Women’s Aid Hilary
Saunders highlighted the charity’s Failure to protect
research in 2003, which showed only six per cent of children who
say they do not want contact with a violent parent are being
listened to in courts.

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