The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) is a
non-departmental public body In the United Kingdom, non-departmental public body (NDPB) is a classification applied by the Cabinet Office, Treasury, the Scottish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive to public sector organisations that have a role in the process o ...
England England is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to its west and Scotland to its north. The Irish Sea lies northwest and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. It is separa ...
set up to promote the welfare of children and families involved in
family court Family courts were originally created to be a Court of Equity convened to decide matters and make orders in relation to family law, including custody of children, and could disregard certain legal requirements as long as the petitioner/plaintiff ...
. It was formed in April 2001 under the provisions of the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000 and is accountable to
Parliament In modern politics, and history, a parliament is a legislative body of government. Generally, a modern parliament has three functions: representing the electorate, making laws, and overseeing the government via hearings and inquiries. ...
through the
Ministry of Justice A Ministry of Justice is a common type of government department that serves as a justice ministry. Lists of current ministries of justice Named "Ministry" * Ministry of Justice (Abkhazia) * Ministry of Justice (Afghanistan) * Ministry of Jus ...
. Cafcass is independent of the courts, social services, education, health authorities and all similar agencies.


Court proceedings for which Cafcass may provide support include: *Parental applications under Section 8 of the
Children Act 1989 The Children Act 1989 is a United Kingdom Act of Parliament which allocates duties to local authorities, courts, parents, and other agencies in the United Kingdom, to ensure children are safeguarded and their welfare is promoted. It centres on th ...
for a Child Arrangements Order, this includes where a child lives, spends time, or otherwise has contact with each parent *Other parental applications under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989, such as a Prohibited Steps Order or a Specific Issue Order *Adoption cases *Children who are subject to a social services application for a care and/ or supervision order. Cafcass' function is set out i
Section 12(1) Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000
which states:


The provisions of court welfare services were the subject of two reviews. The
Comprehensive Spending Review A spending review, or occasionally a comprehensive spending review, is a governmental process in the United Kingdom carried out by HM Treasury to set firm expenditure limits and, through public service agreements, define the key improvements that ...
(CSR) and a subsequent review conducted jointly by the Home Office, the
Lord Chancellor The lord chancellor, formally the lord high chancellor of Great Britain, is the highest-ranking traditional minister among the Great Officers of State in Scotland and England in the United Kingdom, nominally outranking the prime minister. Th ...
’s Department and the Department of Health concluded that a new integrated service subsuming these functions could improve service to the courts, better safeguard the interests of children, reduce wasteful overlaps and increase efficiency. The services spanned England and Wales and included: Family Court Welfare (FCW) (54 areas); the Guardian ad litem and Reporting Officer (GALRO) Service (59 panels) and the children’s work of the Official Solicitor’s (OS) Department. The Home Office stated: The Home Office Prison-Probation review consultation paper did not mention family court welfare given that family court welfare was to move to a new unified family court welfare service. The government then announced the setting up of a unified family court welfare service. Among many key areas to be addressed were ensuring: Cafcass's statutory basis; funding to cover start-up, transitional and ongoing costs; change management of the merger of 114 autonomous bodies into a single organisation; maintenance of current casework. These were addressed by a project team, drawn from the three relevant government departments and supplemented by consultants dealing with, for example, IT, payroll, estates and finance. The Criminal Justice and Court Services Bill was led by the Home Office as most of the Bill’s provisions concerned the establishment of a National Probation Service for England and Wales. A few parts concerned Cafcass arrangements. The Bill completed its parliamentary stages in Autumn 2000. The Act’s Cafcass provisions were set to commence on 1 April 2001. The short timeline created problems that took Cafcass years to resolve. Cafcass's functions were to “(a)safeguard and promote the welfare of the children,(b)give advice to the court about any application made to it in such proceedings,(c) make provision for children to be represented in such proceedings,(d) provide information, advice and other support for the children and their families.” Subordinate legislation set out the duties of Cafcass practitioners. In 2004 Cafcass published a policy and procedure concerning
domestic violence Domestic violence (also known as domestic abuse or family violence) is violence or other abuse that occurs in a domestic setting, such as in a marriage or cohabitation. ''Domestic violence'' is often used as a synonym for '' intimate partn ...
. In 2005/06 Cafcass produced the consultation document ''Every Day Matters'' that led to a draft set of National Standards. These standards set out what service users, partner agencies and practitioners in the family justice system could expect. The standards updated the 2003 Cafcass Service Standards and Principles, and after piloting in the North-East Region, were phased in from 1 April 2007. The standards noted the importance of service-user feedback and the active engagement and participation of children in their case planning process. Cafcass asserted the importance of including children's views in the decision making processes involved in court proceedings. Young people could offer a "Needs, Wishes and Feelings" statement directly to the judge. However, Cafcass admitted that they do not conform to any National Standards. The Children's Rights Team spearheaded the formation of a Young People's Board for Cafcass. This board consists of 12 young people with experience of Cafcass's services. Since the board's formation in August 2006 they helped to shape Cafcass policies and procedures. In 2011 the Family Justice Review, in its final report, stated the following about the Young People’s Board: ‘''We have been impressed by the valuable work undertaken by the Cafcass Young People’s Board. They provide an important perspective on the work of the family justice system and offer an intelligent and energetic challenge to the board of Cafcass. We believe that this work should be maintained through a Young People’s Board for the Family Justice Service, with a remit to consider issues in both public and private law and to report directly to the service.’'' The Young People’s Board was expanded to cover the family justice system on a national scale and is now called The Family Justice Young People's Board. The Family Justice Young People’s Board (FJYPB) is a group of over 40 children and young people aged between 8 and 25 years old who live across England. All members have either had direct experience of the family justice system or have an interest in children’s rights and the family courts. The FJYPB is a permanent sub-group of the national Family Justice Board (FJB) and is responsible to this board. Two members of the FJYPB regularly attend FJB meetings. In 2012 Cafcass published its Operating Framework which sets out how Cafcass meets its responsibilities as a family court social work service to children and young people, to courts and to family members, as required by legislation.


As of 1 April 2005, responsibility for the functions of Cafcass in Wales, known as CAFCASS Cymru, became the responsibility of the
National Assembly for Wales The Senedd (; ), officially known as the Welsh Parliament in English and () in Welsh, is the devolved, unicameral legislature of Wales. A democratically elected body, it makes laws for Wales, agrees certain taxes and scrutinises the Welsh ...
. Following the changes within Welsh Government in 2007, CAFCASS Cymru became part of the Department for Health and Social Services.


On 1 April 2014, responsibility for Cafcass in England transferred from the
Department for Education The Department for Education (DfE) is a department of His Majesty's Government responsible for child protection, child services, education (compulsory, further and higher education), apprenticeships and wider skills in England. A Departme ...
to the
Ministry of Justice A Ministry of Justice is a common type of government department that serves as a justice ministry. Lists of current ministries of justice Named "Ministry" * Ministry of Justice (Abkhazia) * Ministry of Justice (Afghanistan) * Ministry of Jus ...
. Edward Timpson CBE is the current Chair of the Cafcass Board, which includes eleven other member

The Cafcass Board is made up of non-executive members appointed in accordance with the Membership, Committee and Procedure Regulations 2005. The Cafcass Board establishes the overall strategic aims and objectives for Cafcass consistent with the strategic policy objectives determined by the Secretary of State. It meets quarterly to monitor the performance of Cafcass and is accountable for Cafcass fulfilling its functions. The work of the Board is supported by three main sub-committees chaired by Board members: * The Audit and Risk Assurance Committee (ARAC) which gives assurance to the effectiveness of the internal control and risk management systems. * The Quality Committee which scrutinises the quality of safeguarding practice and casework. * The Performance Committee which monitors national performance against KPIs and Cafcass’ impact on the whole family justice system key performance measures (KPMs). There is also a Remuneration Committee which is convened as and when needed. The Chief Executive and Accounting Officer for Cafcass is responsible and accountable to Parliament for the day-to-day operations, management and leadership of Cafcass and its handling of public funds administered to it. Jacky Tiotto became Chief Executive in autumn 2019. She was previously Director of Children’s Services at the
London Borough of Bexley The London Borough of Bexley () is a London borough in south-east London, forming part of Outer London. It has a population of 248,287. The main settlements are Sidcup, Erith, Bexleyheath, Crayford, Welling and Old Bexley. The London Borough ...
. The Chief Executive is supported by the Corporate Management Team. DNA scheme Regulations came into effect on 23 November 2015 with Cafcass and Cafcass Cymru funding a new DNA scheme under section 20 of the Family Law Reform Act 1969.


During 2015–16, Cafcass worked with 116,104 children and young people across England. Cafcass is asked by family courts to become involved in public and private law cases as the independent voice of the child, advising the court on the issues children are facing, usually through recommendations they set out in reports to court. The primary aim is to reduce the risks to a child’s health and wellbeing and to promote their welfare and development. Cafcass has published
strategic plan for 2015–2020 ‘a stronger voice for the child’
which sets out its strategic priorities and its programmes to deliver these. Cafcass is set Key Performance Indicator (KPI) targets by their sponsor department, the Ministry of Justice. The table below shows the KPI figures for 2015/16. Public law: Between April 2015 and March 2016, Cafcass received 12,741 care applications. This figure is 14.2% (1,582 applications) higher than the same period the previous year and 20% (2,121 applications) higher when compared with the same period in 2013. On average Cafcass has received in excess of 1,000 new care applications per month during 2015–16. Private law: Cafcass received a total of 37,649 private law cases between April and March. This figure is 10.3% higher (3,530 cases) than 2014–15. On average Cafcass received in excess of 3,100 new private law cases per month during 2015–16.
Ofsted The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) is a non-ministerial department of His Majesty's government, reporting to Parliament. Ofsted is responsible for inspecting a range of educational institutions, inc ...
has a duty to inspect Cafcass under section 143 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 which requires the Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills to inspect the performance of Cafcass functions. The current Cafcass inspection framework replaced the previous tri- annual inspection of each of the 17 Cafcass service areas with one annual national inspection. Cafcass had it
first national Ofsted inspection in March 2014
and the overall judgement was ‘good’ with an ‘outstanding’ judgement for leadership and governance. Cafcass had it
second national Ofsted inspection in March 2018
and Ofsted rated Cafcass as 'outstanding'. Cafcass publishes an annual report of its activities together with its audited accounts after the end of each financial year. Cafcass provides to the
Ministry of Justice A Ministry of Justice is a common type of government department that serves as a justice ministry. Lists of current ministries of justice Named "Ministry" * Ministry of Justice (Abkhazia) * Ministry of Justice (Afghanistan) * Ministry of Jus ...
its finalised (audited) accounts in line with HM Treasury guidelines. Cafcass is represented on the national Family Justice Board and chairs 10 out of 42 local Family Justice Boards.


In 2008, an Ofsted inspection of Cafcass service users in
South Yorkshire South Yorkshire is a ceremonial and metropolitan county in the Yorkshire and Humber Region of England. The county has four council areas which are the cities of Doncaster and Sheffield as well as the boroughs of Barnsley and Rotherham. In N ...
concluded that case records often did not show how Cafcass had come to its conclusions. In a post-inspection review in 2009, Ofsted found that in four of nine recommendations, progress was inadequate. In 2009, Ofsted inspected Cafcass:
Lancashire Lancashire ( , ; abbreviated Lancs) is the name of a historic county, ceremonial county, and non-metropolitan county in North West England. The boundaries of these three areas differ significantly. The non-metropolitan county of Lancashi ...
Cumbria Cumbria ( ) is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan county in North West England, bordering Scotland. The county and Cumbria County Council, its local government, came into existence in 1974 after the passage of the Local Government Act 1972. ...
service area (including
Blackburn with Darwen Blackburn with Darwen is a borough and unitary authority area in Lancashire, North West England. It consists of the industrial town of Blackburn and the market town of Darwen including other villages around the two towns. Formation It was fo ...
Blackpool Blackpool is a seaside resort in Lancashire, England. Located on the northwest coast of England, it is the main settlement within the borough also called Blackpool. The town is by the Irish Sea, between the Ribble and Wyre rivers, and is ...
). They found Cafcass to be inadequate in equality, diversity, value for money, complaints handling, service responsiveness, performance management, self-evaluation, safeguarding children and improving outcomes for children. The report stated that:
''"the service area does not ensure that consistent consideration of the impact of family breakdown on outcomes for children is embedded in all aspects of case planning and reporting to court. The impact of ... the service in ensuring that all children are safe or feel safe is inadequate."''
In 2009/10 The Annual Report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills found that ''"(Cafcass) is performing poorly, with four out of the five service areas inspected judged to be inadequate."'' In November 2010 a parliamentary Commons Public Affairs Committee found that "Cafcass as an organisation is not fit for purpose" and that it did not make "child-based decisions". In 2011, presenters to a Justice Select Committee said that Cafcass was "beyond reform" and "should be abolished". A High Court judge said in 2014 that it appeared to be a practice "widespread across the country" that children were taken into foster care based on reports which
family court Family courts were originally created to be a Court of Equity convened to decide matters and make orders in relation to family law, including custody of children, and could disregard certain legal requirements as long as the petitioner/plaintiff ...
s "cut and pasted" into their own rulings, without giving the parents the opportunity to view the reports or respond to them.

Similar organisations in other countries

* Bureau Jeugdzorg and Raad voor de Kinderbescherming Netherlands * Child Protective Services USA * Jugendamt Austria and Germany


Cafcass originally covered
England and Wales England and Wales () is one of the three legal jurisdictions of the United Kingdom. It covers the constituent countries England and Wales and was formed by the Laws in Wales Acts 1535 and 1542. The substantive law of the jurisdiction is Eng ...
but on 1 April 2005 Cafcass Cymru was created with responsibility transferred to the
Welsh Assembly The Senedd (; ), officially known as the Welsh Parliament in English language, English and () in Welsh language, Welsh, is the Devolution in the United Kingdom, devolved, unicameral legislature of Wales. A democratically elected body, it makes ...

See also

Child custody Child custody is a legal term regarding '' guardianship'' which is used to describe the legal and practical relationship between a parent or guardian and a child in that person's care. Child custody consists of ''legal custody'', which is the ri ...
Divorce Divorce (also known as dissolution of marriage) is the process of terminating a marriage or marital union. Divorce usually entails the canceling or reorganizing of the legal duties and responsibilities of marriage, thus dissolving the ...
Family law Family law (also called matrimonial law or the law of domestic relations) is an area of the law that deals with family matters and domestic relations. Overview Subjects that commonly fall under a nation's body of family law include: * Marriag ...
Parental rights A parent is a caregiver of the offspring in their own species. In humans, a parent is the caretaker of a child (where "child" refers to offspring, not necessarily age). A ''biological parent'' is a person whose gamete resulted in a child, a male t ...
Paternity (law) Paternity law refers to body of law underlying legal relationship between a father and his biological or adopted children and deals with the rights and obligations of both the father and the child to each other as well as to others. A child's pa ...
* Residence (ENG) * Professor Carol Smart


External links

Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service
* ttp://www.napo.org.uk/ Napo (trade union representing Cafcass and Probation staff)br>Committee on the Lord Chancellor's Department: CAFCASS ReportGuidelines
on safeguarding children within which all CAFCASS staff work. {{DEFAULTSORT:Children And Family Court Advisory And Support Service 2001 establishments in the United Kingdom Child welfare in England Divorce in the United Kingdom Family law in the United Kingdom Ministry of Justice (United Kingdom) Non-departmental public bodies of the United Kingdom government Organisations based in the London Borough of Camden Organizations established in 2001