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 after a domestic abuse perpetrator programme when it’s not safe ? Has no contact been ordered 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.
We especially want to hear from people who have experienced an SPIP and whether it’s been positive or not.
Write to us at [email protected].
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.
In the new year we will 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.
Child Contact Interventions
CAFCASS describe Child Contact Interventions (CCIs) as ‘short-term interventions of supervised contact’. They are designed to help adults and children establish safe and beneficial contact when it is difficult to do on their own. CAFCASS say CCIs are a ‘learning opportunity’ for parents with input from the Separated Parents Information Programme (SPIP).
Referral by CAFCASS to a CCI
The CAFCASS Family Court Adviser (FCA) will make a CCI referral when they assess that the child should be spending time with a parent or adult but are not doing so for whatever reason. They say CCIs can be effective in cases where:
- Parental conflict is intractable and needs ‘positive practical reframing’;
- Contact has lapsed and needs support to be re-established;
- There are risks which need more assessment.
CCIs are supposed to provide a positive contact experience for the child and allow them to develop positive contact in the future.
CCIs are funded by CAFCASS and delivered by the National Association of Child Contact Centres (NACCC) accredited partner organisations which are listed in the Directory of Providers. NACCC centres and services have an accreditation process and have agreed to work to approved national standards, ensuring that families using those services are safe and well cared for.
The Separated Parents Information Programme (SPIP)
The SPIP is a course which CAFCASS use to help parents understand how to put their children first whilst they are separating, even though they are in dispute. The course is intended to help parents learn fundamental principles about how to manage conflict and difficulties. A parent will not attend the same session as their ex-partner.
The programme encourages separated parents to behave in the best interests of their children and to become clearer about what their children need most from them. The programme is also intended to equip parents with skills to do some things for themselves such as making agreements so that they do not need court intervention. The SPIP leads to a parenting plan (see below)
When might an SPIP be a good idea?
- When parents have separated and want the best for their children but they have difficulties focusing on their children’s needs due to ongoing conflict;
- When feelings and reactions to the separation are affecting the parents’ ability to communicate about their children and communication needs to improve;
- When there are NO safeguarding concerns about the children;
- When mediation is being considered as an option.
What does the SPIP consist of?
- It makes parents think about the emotional effect of separation and what to do about it;
- It teaches what children need and the impact of conflict on children;
- It teaches them how to communicate better and how to react when under stress.
How is the SPIP delivered?
The SPIP is delivered for CAFCASS by independent providers. It usually consists of a mixed group of parents attending one four hour session. Parents must attend for the whole session. Separated couples should both attend an SPIP but not the same session. Children are not permitted to attend. What is said during the session is confidential unless safeguarding concerns are raised.
How to take part in an SPIP
Parents may be ordered to attend a SPIP by the court and CAFCASS is usually asked to advise the court if it is suitable. This could be alongside a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM).
Parents can also self-refer for an SPIP
The cost varies depending on the provider. However, if parents are ordered to attend by the court it will usually be free.
What is a parenting plan?
A parenting plan is a written plan worked out between parents after they separate, covering the practical issues of parenting. The plan should explain the arrangements for the children’s care after separation, without having to go to court. It requires parents to put the best interests of their children first.
CAFCASS encourages parents to make a Parenting Plan because:
- It helps everyone involved know what is expected of them;
- It acts as a valuable reference to go back to; and
- It sets out practical decisions about the children, such as living arrangements, education and health care.
It’s important to know that, if you end up going to court, it is likely that the court will expect you to have started a Parenting Plan.
CAFCASS has a Parenting Plan: summary of progress form to write down what has been agreed and what the court might need to decide. They say this gives an opportunity to think again about whether court is the best way to go or whether there are better ways for you to make your child arrangements.
There’s more information about the SPIP in the SPIP factsheet and handbook