CAFCASS Assessments: Domestic abuse 

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If you’re being assessed by CAFCASS, we’d love to hear what it’s like for you. Is it going well or badly? Is it helpful and how has it helped?  Are you finding it hard and if so why? What do you make of what you’re going through?  Has contact been ordered when it’s not safe?  Has contact been prevented when it is safe?  Have you had false allegations made about you?  We want to hear about cases like this and the impact it’s having on you and the children. 

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We are keen to help you through the process and with our years of experience working in the family court (Jill as a solicitor and George as an expert witness) we may be able to give useful advice.  

We will soon be launching a new podcast which will focus on real life cases based on what people tell us.  Of course, as professionals, we will respect the key issues of privacy and confidentiality but we want to help you and others by sharing real life experiences. 

Get to know the CAFCASS guidance and procedures 

When CAFCASS use the Child Impact Assessment Framework (CIAF), they have a standard set of guidance and analytic procedures to cope with a variety of situations.  This blog shows you how CAFCASS assess families where there is domestic abuse.  I’ve also listed their guidance and procedures for actually doing work with children where there is domestic abuse going on in the family.

You can use each link to see exactly what the FCA will be using.  If your case involves ‘domestic abuse where children have been harmed directly or indirectly, for example from the impact of coercive control’, you can see exactly what CAFCASS thinks is useful.  FCAs are expected to follow these processes although they do have discretion in how they conduct their assessments.

CAFCASS assessment of domestic abuse

Domestic abuse – what we need to know

This is used in interview to establish the nature, duration and context of domestic abuse, to assist in the benchmarking of risk against the Barnardo’s Domestic Violence Risk Identification Matrix.


SafeLives DASH guidance and the SafeLives DASH tool

This is used in interview if domestic abuse is current to establish if a referral to MARAC is required.


Assessment of coercive control

This should be used where the Safe Lives Dash has identified coercive and/or controlling behaviour to assess it more fully.


Barnado’s Domestic Violence Risk Identification Matrix (DV RIM) 

This is an analytical tool, not completed directly with the parents/carers. It can be used to explore the level of risk of domestic abuse. 


Safe contact indicator

This is used during or after an interview to analyse whether contact is safe and in the child’s best interests.


Tool for assessing whether a DAPP is appropriate

To be used to help decision-making on whether a DAPP is appropriate.


Situational couple violence guidance

This is guidance on how to recognise situational couple violence and what to consider.


Distinguishing domestic abuse and harmful conflict screening tool

This is designed to be used early on in a case to assist the FCA in deciding which will be of most assistance in their assessment: the domestic abuse tools and guidance or the harmful conflict tools and guidance. It is not designed to be a diagnostic tool in itself and does not replace professional judgement.


Impact on children of experiencing domestic abuse

This is guidance for FCAs on working with children who are living with domestic abuse.

Working with children

The guidance for observation of contact and the strengths and difficulties questionnaire come in different forms for each band of children’s age groups.

‘Say it your own way’ This is a collection of worksheets which can be used to explore the child’s experience at home and in placement.
Adapted worry meter This is a sliding scale, from ‘a little bit’ to ‘hugely’ which can be used along with Cafcass ‘emotion stickers’ to clarify the strength of the feeling the child has picked.
Board game This is a game designed to build trust with the child. The emotions of the board encourage the child to openly discuss their thoughts and feelings without it feeling like they are being questioned. The FCA joins in and shares thoughts and feelings.
I’ll go first’ toolkit This is used with children with disabilities.
Observation of Contact



– For Infants up to One Year


– For children aged One to Five years


– For Primary School Children


– For Young People or Teenagers

This is guidance to assess the quality of contact and the ability of the parents/carers to meet children’s needs at contact, adapted for different age groups.
Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire:


Child aged 11-16


Main carer (younger child)


Main carer (older child) 


Teacher (younger child)


Teacher (older child)

The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) is a brief behavioural screening tool to screen for emotional and behavioural problems.

The version for ‘Child aged 11-16’ is for older children who can answer for themselves.  The other versions are for use with parents (main carer) or teachers.


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CAFCASS Assessments: The Child Impact Assessment Framework (CIAF)
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