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Like many other organisations operating within the family justice system in England and Wales, the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) is in the process of change. It’s role looks likely to evolve and this means the way in which Cafcass is regulated now needs to be re-considered.

To this end, the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) has launched a consultation on proposed changes to the inspection of Cafcass, to drive improvement for children involved in the family courts proceedings.

What is Cafcass?

Cafcass is a non-departmental public body, and represents children in family court cases of all types, including adoption cases, care orders, emergency protection orders and in cases dealing with residency or contact, after divorce or separation.

Cafcass makes sure that the voices of children are heard and that the decisions that are made about them are in their best interests. Safeguarding is a top priority for Cafcass, as are the wishes and feelings of the children involved.

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Some of Wales’ most vulnerable children and young people are unaware of their statutory right to an independent professional ‘voice’ due to a system without a clear set of checks and balances, according to the Children’s Commissioner, Keith Towler.

In a report, titled Missing Voices, the Commissioner outlined the findings of his first statutory review which looked at independent professional advocacy for looked after children and young people, care leavers and children in need.

The review found that there is:

  • a lack of clarity and consistency about the way services are commissioned across Wales;
  • a lack of strategic leadership by Welsh Government to make sure eligible children and young people have equal access; and
  • no annual or systematic monitoring inspection or regulation of the service.


Keith Towler commented:

“It saddens me to say that some of Wales’ most vulnerable children and young people don’t know they’re entitled to have an independent professional advocate to represent their views. The purpose of my review is not to point the finger of blame at anyone but instead to reinvigorate national and local partners to get Wales back on track so that no child is denied access to a professional advocate.”

The review makes 29 recommendations for improvement, and the Welsh Ministers and local authorities covered under the review now have three months to respond.

The Children's Commissioner, Maggie Atkinson, is supporting the development of a blueprint for advocacy services that will enable vulnerable children to access support to allow them to have more of a say in decisions that will affect their lives.