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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