CAFCASS Part 3: The Section 7 (S7) report

How CAFCASS sets about preparing a S7 report

The CAFCASS website explains how they consider these cases and how they deal specifically with allegations of domestic abuse, high conflict cases, parental alienation, substance abuse and mental illness. 

The CAFCASS worker preparing the report will decide what enquiries to make based on what the court has asked them to look into. This may include talking to children (depending on their age and understanding) about their wishes and feelings and what they would like to happen.

The CAFCASS worker will:

  • Usually talk to your children alone, which may be at a neutral venue such as at their school,
  • Spend time with you and the other party and listen to any concerns you might have.
  • They may also speak to other people such as family members, teachers and health workers.

The CAFCASS worker will not:

  • Ask your children to make a decision or to choose between you and the other party.

The CAFCASS worker then writes the report telling the court what they think should happen. In most cases you will be able to see the CAFCASS report before the court hearing.

What you should expect when the CAFCASS worker talks to you. 

You will know what issues CAFCASS will cover because it will have been discussed in court and the Judge will have given some instructions. That means you need to listen carefully to what’s said during the court hearing and make a detailed note so you can remember the issues. The Judge’s decision about what will need to be addressed in a report will be based on everything he’s read including what’s in the safeguarding letter and any updates to that letter. For more on this see https://www.myonrecord.com/blog/cafcass-assessment-part-1/ 

You’ll also get a better understanding of what’s being looked into, by the topics covered in your face to face interview with the CAFCASS worker. Prepare for the interview taking into account the issues raised in our blog https://www.myonrecord.com/blog/what-to-expect-in-a-cafcass-interview/.  

What the CAFCASS worker is thinking about when doing a S7 report 

It’s important to understand what the CAFCASS worker is trained to be thinking about. This will help you know how to respond to likely questions and how to talk about your case. If you’re a litigant in person and are going to prepare your own statement, understanding what they think will help you to write a better statement. See our blog about it here  https://www.myonrecord.com/blog/what-to-expect-in-a-cafcass-interview/

The Child Impact Assessment Framework (CIAF)

The CIAF sets out how CAFCASS think children are affected by parents separating and how CAFCASS should act. The framework includes four guidance sections which CAFCASS uses to assess different kinds of problems:

  1. Domestic abuse where children have been harmed directly or indirectly, for example from the impact of coercive control.
  2. Conflict which is harmful to the child such as a long-running court case or mutual hostility between parents which can become intolerable for the child.
  3. Child refusal or resistance to spending time with one of their parents or carers which may be for good reasons or could be due to parental alienation.
  4. Other forms of harmful parenting due to factors like substance misuse or parental mental health difficulties where these are assessed as harmful to the child.

In relation to Child refusal or resistance (C above), CAFCASS has the following guidance and ‘tools’ listed on their website which you can read: 

  • “ Assessing children’s and young people’s wishes and feelings”
  • “Typical behaviours exhibited where alienation may be a factor”
  • “Recommendations for the child where alienation may be a factor” 
  • “Children’s beliefs about parental divorce”

The first three of these were devised by CAFCASS. The fourth is attributed to Kurdek and Berg (1987)

Safeguarding is the priority

CAFCASS emphasises safeguarding and wants the impact of events on the child to be at the heart of their assessment process, so their assessments should start and end with the question ‘What is happening for this child?’.  The CAFCASS worker has to consider what all of the information they have gathered means for the individual child.  That should be the basis for their child impact analysis. This should lead logically to their recommendations to the court and parents about what arrangements and interventions are in the child’s best interests.

More on CAFCASS

There is much to be said (good and bad) about the tools and guidance CAFCASS use and in further blogs we will go into more detail. To be notified of our new blogs subscribe here for a weekly email updating you. 

Here are some of our previous blogs you might be interested in:

Also, look at the excellent website of the Voice of the child at  https://voiceofthechild.org.uk/kb/cafcass-evidence-witnesses/ where you will find these links to documents CAFCASS ask children to complete 

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