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Cafcass publishes new assessment framework for private law cases

All Cafcass practitioners to be trained to apply framework by March 2019

Cafcass has developed a new assessment framework to support its practitioners in assessing the harmful impact of a range of complex case factors on the children we work with in private law cases.

The service says that the Child Impact Assessment Framework (CIAF) is a structured framework that sets out how children may experience parental separation and how this can be understood and assessed at Cafcass to inform better outcomes for children. It draws on experience and knowledge from around 40,000 private law cases each year involving around 60,000 children.

The CIAF will help Family Court Advisers (FCAs) in the timely identification and accurate assessment of what is happening for each child, and to provide consistent and balanced reporting to court when advising on what we consider to be in the child's best interests. The CIAF aims to promote a common understanding of contentious issues and will help FCAs to retain focus on the impact on the child when these issues arise.

The CIAF brings together new and existing guidance and tools into four guides which our private law practitioners can use to assess the impact on the child of different case factors, including:

One of the guides the CIAF incorporates is the award-winning Domestic Abuse Practice Pathway, which helps Cafcass's FCAs to assess the impact of domestic abuse on the child and any future risk.

Where domestic abuse features, FCAs will prioritise the assessment of domestic abuse using the pathway and check that any risk has been adequately and safely considered, reduced or resolved before assessing the other case factors, such as harmful conflict or alienating behaviours.

All private law practitioners will receive mandatory training in applying the framework. The training is due to be rolled out across Cafcass service areas from this month, with all practitioners expected to be trained by March 2019.

CIAF was informed by an internal advisory group of 40 practitioners, led by Cafcass' Assistant Director and Principal Social Worker, Sarah Parsons, as well as input from sector experts and family justice partners.

Sarah Parsons commented:

"I'm delighted that our guides and tools are now available for Cafcass staff and all interested parties to read and use. They will further improve how our practitioners assess private law cases, and also help our family justice partners and the court to recognise and act on children's experiences when families are in private law proceedings."

Please see the Child Impact Assessment Framework webpage for further information.