Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Services (Cafcass) is an independent organisation that aim to represent children in family court cases, ensuring decisions are made in the children’s best interests. Between April 2014 and March 2015, Cafcass received a total of 11,159 care applications, indicating a 5% increase on same period the previous year. The number of applications continued to rise with the latest statistics totaling 12,758 applications between April 2015 and March 2016. The 28% increase indicates an expanding category of potentially vulnerable children being taken into care.
Care applications are made by local authorities when they have reason to be concerned about a child’s welfare or safety and therefore, wish to apply to the court to have that child taken into care and away from potentially unsuitable parents or carers. There are many reasons why a local authority may worry for the safety of a child, including neglect and abuse. The following guidance can be found on their website and elaborates on the situations that may give them cause for concern:
Neglect which involves ongoing, serious failure to meet a child’s basic needs and can include:
- Not taking a child to see a doctor when they need to go.
- Not giving the child enough to eat or drink.
- Not keeping the child clean.
Or abuse which includes:
- Physical abuse, which is about inflicting pain or injury to a child and also includes giving a child harmful substances, such as drugs, alcohol or poison.
- Sexual abuse, when a child is pressured, forced or tricked into taking part in any kind of sexual activity.
- Emotional abuse, when a parent or carer behaves in a way that is likely to seriously affect the child’s emotional development. This can include constant rejection; continual, severe criticism and witnessing domestic violence.
For more information on the role of Cafcass, please visit their website.