England and Wales share a judicial and courts system but the Children Act 2004 created a separate status for Cafcass in Wales from 1stApril 2005.
CAFCASS Cymru is part of the Welsh Assembly Government rather than a stand alone or arms length agency. It is directly answerable to the Deputy Minister for Health & Social Services, through its own Chief Executive.The Children Act 2004 made it a function of the Assembly Government to safeguard and promote the welfare of children, give advice to any Court about an application made to it in family proceedings as well as to provide information, advice and other support for the children and their families. (Part 4 – Section 35 of the Act)
CAFCASS Cymru works within the same rules and structures of the Courts Service.. However, because it is separate in all respects from its English equivalent the processes, policies and procedures of CAFCASS Cymru have, and will continue to diverge from its English counterpart.
It is important to be aware that one of CAFCASS Cymru’s main duties is
‘to provide information, advice and other support for children AND THEIR FAMILIES.’
This is laid down in the legislation and on their website here:
You may find it useful to remind individual officers of this fact. .
Cafcass Cymru’s own website can be accessed here:
FNF Cymru is represented on the organisation’s Advisory Committee which meets approximately quarterly to discuss the work of the organisation and its future plans.
The service that you can expect from CAFCASS Cymru is set out here:
The final page of this document contains the addresses and contact details of each of the local and regional offices of CAFCASS Cymru.
CAFCASS Cymru inform us that the total staff size of the organisation is approximately equal to the central secretariat of CAFCASS in England. This means that they are constantly under pressure to meet deadlines. In 2009/10 there was a 37% increase in their caseload across Wales – with figures for areas such as Swansea increasing by more than 100%.
Information on their most recent performance can be found here:
INDEPENDENT INSPECTION AND ASSESSMENT
Unlike CAFCASS in England which has been inspected by Ofsted since its inception the Welsh Assembly Government introduced an inspection framework for CAFCASS Cymru in 2010 undertaken by CSSIW (Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales).
The initial report was published in November 2010 accompanied by a Ministerial Statement by the Deputy Minister, Gwenda Thomas AM. The inspection assessed CAFCASS CYMRU as Satisfactory in relation to Overall Effectiveness and Inadequate in relation to Capacity for Improvement.
The full text of the report can be found here:
REPRESENTATIONS AND COMPLAINTS PROCEDURES
It is important that you challenge any factual inaccuracies in your report with the officer directly AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. Do not assume that the only opportunity you have to correct mistakes is in the Court proceedings themselves. Matters other thanfactual inaccuracies eg you simply don’t agree with the recommendations made – may need to be raised in Court or later through the Complaints Procedure below.
PLEASE NOTE: The Complaints Procedure states:
Complaints can only be addressed under the CAFCASS CYMRU Operational Policy - Representations and Complaints if they are received within three months after the completion of proceedingsp.6
One of the ways in which CAFCASS Cymru has diverged from practice in England is in the creation of CC-CAWAC. This is a tool to be used by CAFCASS Cymru officers toinvestigate:
‘the effects of inter-parental conflict and domestic violence on children and introduces an evidence-based ‘risk assessment’ toolkit developed for use by the Child and Family Court Advisory and Support Service in Wales (CAFCASS CYMRU) aimed at assessing the psychological impacts of witnessing inter-parental conflict and domestic violence on children’.
Source: Highlighting the Voice of the Child – Professor Gordon Harold &Dr.Katherine Shelton - School of Psychology - CardiffUniversity -July ‘08
It is important that all users of CAFCASS Cymru understand the significance of the CC-CAWAC tool and the underlying thinking behind its use. It seeks to ensure that any form of inter-parental conflict is recognised and reported to the Courts as this has an impact on the best interests of the children who are potentially harmed by witnessing any domestic abuse or inter-parental conflict.
FNF Cymru strongly urges parents to ensure that disagreements and conflicts between them are not witnessed by their children, and that ALL incidents where one parent involves their children in conflict are reported to CAFCASS Cymru.
PAUL APREDA -National Development Manager, FNF Cymru - March 2011