When an application is made to the Court for an Order relating to children under the Children Act 1989 the application is sent to the Children And Family Advisory Support Service (CAFCASS). Cafcass are an independent body whose role is to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and to give advice to the family courts on how to proceed with matters.
Schedule Two Letter
When an application is forwarded to CAFCASS they will undertake some initial safeguarding checks. As part of those checks they look into both parties’ police convictions and history with the Local Authority. They will also speak with both parties briefly by telephone to ascertain their positions regarding the application. They will then put all of this information together into a very brief report which will be used by the Court at the first hearing. This report is known as a Schedule 2 Letter to Court. The report will conclude with a recommendation as to how the court should proceed. The recommendation can range from there being no reason for Cafcass to remain involved and inviting the court to make an Order it sees fit to asking the court to allow it to undertake a full investigation and provide a detailed recommendation on the most appropriate way forward.
At the first hearing the Schedule 2 Report will be given to the Judge and all parties. Sometimes the report is posted to the parties before the hearing, other times it is given to them on the day of the hearing. On the day there will then by a duty Cafcass Officer available at Court to talk with all parties and obtain their views on the recommendation. If there are no safeguarding concerns the he Cafcass Officer will help try to settle the matter between the parties. If Cafcass wish to undertake a detailed investigation before providing a recommendation they will discuss what can be done in the meantime to ensure that the child’s best interests are met.
Section 7 Report
If Cafcass wish to undertake a full investigation, the court will usually allow them to do this. This investigation is known as a Section 7 Report. The Report will take around 12 weeks to be completed. During this time, if necessary extra information can be obtained from the police, doctors, schools, children’s serviced or any other appropriate person involved with the family. The Cafcass Officer will have a meeting with each of the parents and any other relevant adults it may see fit. Depending on the child’s age they may also visit them to find out what their views are. Once the report is completed there will be a further hearing where all parties and the court will consider the findings in the report and the recommendation which is being made. Once this report is completed if the parties can still not agree a way forward the matter will be listed for a Contested Hearing where both parties give evidence in addition to the Cafcass Officer and the Court makes the Order it sees fit.
There are also other reports which Cafcass can complete within Children Act proceedings where it thinks necessary.