Cafcass – ‘Taking me seriously: letting you know how we help’

Posted on: June 30th, 2023

Working with over 140,000 children annually whose future is decided by the family courts, Cafcass provides a service that prioritises their safety, their voices, and their needs.

A new video launched by Cafcass highlights how they help children and young people involved in the Family Court. Voices of the Family Justice Young People’s Board share their recollections of how they felt being involved in Court proceedings through animated avatars. It emphasizes the help children will receive to understand the Court recommendations as well as what is happening within the proceedings.

Cafcass’ intention is to ensure that children know their voices will be heard. The video has a series of animations to help, especially young children or SEN children, understand the process of proceedings. These include a ‘tug of war’ rope emphasising that some children can feel like they are being pulled to pieces or a ‘piece of string that has been tangled up in knots’.

This will assist in allowing children to understand Cafcass will help them understand these feelings, listen to them and make them feel safe.

The Video

Watch here:

The video begins with a young girl called Olivia explaining what proceedings are within the Family Court; stating this is where decisions are made about the child and the child’s family’s future. She resonates with the child’s feelings of being scared or angry, as well as stating her and others have been through the same thing.

She explains the 2 main reasons as to why the child and their family are in family Court proceedings:

1)     A Local Authorities children’s services social worker thinks that the child’s parents cannot look after the child right now in a way to keep them safe as they may have already been hurt and they are worried it may happen again.

2)     The child’s parents do not want to be together anymore, and they cannot agree on where the child lives, who they should spend time with and what is the best way to take care of the child.

The characters explain that if everyone got along and the child could be looked after properly and kept safe it would be much better and Cafcass are the ones who try to make this happen.

Olivia asks a question ‘How did you guys feel when you started out with family court proceedings?’ this will allow the child to take a moment to themselves and try to understand their feelings. The characters explain their feelings using a range of metaphors and visual descriptions.

Olivia stresses that the only thing it shouldn’t make the child feel is that its their fault. The characters repeat ‘it’s not your fault’ to allow the child to process that it is not their fault.

Some children during care proceedings have the view that they deserve to be unloved and to be treat the way they have been, but the characters emphasise that all children everywhere have the right to feel safe, loved, supported and cared for by their families whether they live together or not. 

It shows how children may feel very freaked out in a Court as it is a serious grown up place but it is important that the Court hears what the children think, who they are and they must consider what they have to say. This is where Cafcass comes in.

The Cafcass characters explain that they are here to listen to the children and to ensure they know that them and their voices are important. They highlight that they know it is a difficult time, but they are there to help and support the child; referring to the previous statements of ‘tug of war’ and saying they can help with this.

Olivia explains that the Cafcass worker can come to the child wherever they feel the most comfortable, or even speak on the phone, text, or send a letter. They will want to know as much as they can about what makes the child happy and sad. Of course, if the child is interested the Cafcass worker can tell them all about themselves too. Cafcass will then write a report to the Judge to read but will make sure they understand what the child is meaning so they will explain their thinking and answer any questions.

It is highlighted that the child can also write a letter to the Judge or draw a picture or meet the Judge.

Olivia stresses the most important thing:

‘Just because you have told your Cafcass worker what you want to happen, and they have made sure that the Court understand what you want. It doesn’t mean the Court will agree with you’.

Sometimes the other parties decide it would be better for something to happen that the child wishes didn’t.

When a decision is made, the Cafcass worker will explain the decision and what it means for the child and their family.

The end of the video emphasises that one day once things are settled ‘you will untangle the string’.

Family Justice Young People’s Board

A few members of the board spoke out stating that they enjoyed making the video and being part of the thinking process made them feel like they had a say in something that reflects many of their experiences. Cafcass’ Chief Executive also highlighted that they are determined to keep doing more and better for children and their families during a very difficult and frightening time in their lives.

Our View

As practitioners who believe the child’s safety and welfare is paramount this video gives us hope to future cases as all involved do this for the benefit of the children. It is vitally important that the children’s voices are not lost in the midst of the proceedings, and we are confident that after seeing this video children will understand how important them, and their views are.

In proceedings the Children’s Guardian, from Cafcass, speaks on behalf of the child therefore it is extremely essential that the children feel confident in the process and why their words matter. 


Prepared by Kirsty Ward, Legal Assistant

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