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 who are the subject of private law cases.
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 they consider to be in the child’s best interests.
The CIAF brings together new and existing guidance into four guides, which private law practitioners can use to assess the impact on the child of different factors, including:
- domestic abuse
- harmful conflict
- child refusal or resistance to spend time with one of their parents, which includes guidance on parental alienation
- other forms of harmful parenting, such as substance misuse or mental health difficulties.
Where domestic abuse features, FCAs will prioritise the assessment of domestic abuse using the Domestic Abuse Practice Pathway, which helps Cafcass to assess the impact of domestic abuse on the child and any future risk. This ensures that any risk has been adequately and safely considered, reduced or resolved before assessing the other case factors.
All private law practitioners will receive mandatory training in applying the framework, with all practitioners expected to be trained by March 2019.
CIAF was 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.
The framework can be found here.
This article was written by Megan Rothman, Paralegal at Bindmans LLP.