Welcome to another week.
A backlog of family law cases at the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) has led the organisation to issue interim guidance for cases involving the provision of Domestic Abuse Perpetrator Programmes (DAPPs).
In its update on the matter, Cafcass said it had considered the development of remote DAPPs, but said there had been a lack of evidence to support the adoption of a remote model. As a result, Cafcass has issued a temporary process to be applied in England, which has been agreed by the president of the Family Division.
The temporary process features the following actions:
- New temporary guidance to support Family Court Advisers when making recommendations progressing cases in the current context where DAPP provision is severely limited, to take immediate effect.
- A small, dedicated team has been launched by Cafcass to review the circumstances of families for whom a DAPP has been ordered, but not yet completed, prioritising first those for whom a DAPP has not yet commenced. These case reviews will involve a Family Court Adviser reviewing the child’s file, speaking with adults and children to re-assess the current risks and options, taking account of the new guidance. The child will be given the opportunity to write to the court explaining the impact for them and their wishes and feelings.
- For cases that have been reviewed, Cafcass will request the court’s permission to file a further report, and there may need to be a further hearing to consider this. These reports may recommend either:
- that the case remains on the waiting list as no safe and beneficial arrangements for time with the child are possible without this provision, with appropriate ongoing oversight including a process of monthly review; or
- that the application to court for the existing order for a DAPP can be discharged and an alternative plan (informed by the reassessment) can be put in place: this could be a final order of no contact, a final order for contact with a safety plan and other provision, or an interim order for ‘a step-by-step approach to the progression of contact arrangements’, with a further review and an addendum ordered. From 1 May 2021, Child Contact Interventions commissioned by Cafcass on behalf of the Ministry of Justice were replaced with the new Improving Child and Family Arrangements (ICFA) service. The ICFA service is designed to be a more tailored and less prescriptive approach to meet the needs of individual children and their families.
- In areas where there is capacity to commence new individuals in face-to-face DAPP programmes, families identified at 3a above will take priority, under new arrangements for oversight, which are currently being developed. Cafcass will only start making referral recommendations in reports for new cases once those families with delayed proceedings have been able to progress, unless a DAPP is seen to be the most suitable option. In this situation, the family will be added to the DAPP waiting list.