Family Assistance Order
Please also see the Summary of Orders which sets out the range of orders available to the court.This chapter was added to the manual in March 2017.
1. Family Assistance Orders (Section 16)
This order may be made in private or public applications. The emphasis is upon short-term involvement and giving assistance to families.
A Family Assistance Order should have a very specific remit that has goals which can be achieved within a maximum of 12 months following a review, where general support requirements would not be specific enough.
The Order(s) may name children or an adult or adults with whom a child lives or have a Child Arrangements Order, subject to their consent. The emphasis is on help and assistance and cannot be construed as a safety measure where the Court is uneasy as to the situation in which a child might be placed. A Child Arrangement Order or Special Guardianship Order may at times accompany a Family Assistance Order.
The Court has power to make Family Assistance Orders nominating either the Local Authority or an Officer of CAFCASS to undertake the work. If the case is already open to the local authority, CAFCASS will ask the court to amend the Order and make it to the local authority. It is important that the Court is aware of how the services expect such orders to operate.
The two services will usually operate from a different role:
- CAFCASS will typically be involved in a range of cases where there is a dispute to be resolved, but where child care issues as such are minimal;
- Children's Services will be involved in a range of cases where their role is normally pre-established by matters related to Children in Need or Child Protection.
In instances where CAFCASS are appointed to carry out tasks and the case is not open to the local authority, a Family Court Adviser will be allocated to act as case manager or the case may be allocated to a Family Support Worker or a commissioned agency to carry out work.
If there are any additional needs presented at any point (i.e. section 17 or section 47 safeguarding concerns), CAFCASS will refer to the local authority.
CAFCASS FAO Guidance
The Children Act 1989 Guidance Vol. 1 describes the purpose of the Order being to assist families through transitional difficulties arising from separation or divorce, with a focus on adults, NOT to supervise the safety of children. A Family Assistance Order should not be utilised in cases where there are issues with contact arrangements. Other types of orders or arrangements should be considered in those cases.
If a Family Assistance Order is considered, it is essential that a Court has the benefit of a Section 7 Report before making an Order. Given the short-term nature of Orders, it is not expected that the Agency preparing the report will normally recommend a Family Assistance Order to its counterpart. Should such a step be proposed, neither service would recommend an Order without prior discussion and agreement with the appropriate worker, or where there is none, the responsible Team Manager. Furthermore, it would seem highly desirable that the Court is clear with regards to what specific help it seeks for an individual or family, which is as follows:
- Exists and can be provided and is not available elsewhere;
- Is feasible in the circumstances;
- Has the consent of the individual(s) concerned unless that person is a child;
- Is preferable to no Order being made;
- Cannot be provided on the basis of voluntary contact.
Appendix 1: A Logical Approach to Ordering Welfare Reports
Section 7 Orders for Welfare Reports
The power to the court to order Section Welfare Reports should be subject to the same considerations as other parts of the Act, e.g. the principles of least intervention etc. Before a court orders a report the following checks and questions need to be addressed:
|IF YES||IF NO|
|Proceed to Q2||
||Refer to Solicitor, CWO for this guidance|
|Proceed to Q3||
||Advise parties to attempt to resolve their disagreements separately and/or with legal help.|
|Proceed to Q4||
||Refer back to Solicitors to attempt to settle differences.|
|Refer to Duty CWO if available||
||Refer back to Solicitors of fixed Court date to determine a decision w/o reports.|
|Seek CWO view as to need for report||
||Refer to Duty CWO if available.|
|Hear CWO views. Determine case or adj. to Hearing. Order reports if oral rept. or advice insufficient.||
||Refer for Court Welfare Reports.|