I made some Freedom of Information Act requests recently to see if some hunches I had about CAFCASS were good. They don't completely answer that question but I thought I'd share with you anyway. A request about the number of contact monitoring orders was declined as they didn't have the data in accessible format, but below you can see charts showing the number of Family Assistance Orders, appointments of private law guardians and of Contact Activity Directions / Orders made.
As anticipated there has been a decline in FAOs, although not to a great deal lower than in previous years, prior to a 2011 spike. Again, unsurprisingly the number of private law guardians has been on the up for a while, and the number of CAD / CACs has become better established since their inception a few years ago.
This information only takes us so far. A better figure would be the proportion of private law cases in which a private law guardian was appointed or FAO made. We do know though that in the year Apr 2012 to Mar 2013 the number of private law applications (on CAFCASS data) was up 10% on the previous year. Although our figures are based on calendar rather than financial years so the overlap is not exact, it seems highly likely that the proportion of private law cases in which a FAO has been made has dropped markedly. MoJ figures tell us there was a 4% increase in private law applications between 2011 and 2012, which tends to confirm this hypothesis. So whilst the trend in respect of appointment of Guardians appears to be in the same direction as the trend in the number of cases, the trend with FAOs is the reverse.
This may be connected to shifting views about the role of private law guardians and the redundancy of FSWs in CAFCASS. The CAFCASS Guidance on FAOs is quite restrictive in terms of its view of FAOs. My general experience is that fewer guardians are prepared to accept that their role includes any sort of facilitation of contact or direct work with the family, and FAOs are no longer available in because CAFCASS say they don't have the resources.
The statutory obligations of CAFCASS to “make provision for the performance of any functions conferred on officers of the Service by virtue of this Act or any other enactment” (Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000 s 12(2)) of course remains unchanged.
I wonder, what are other people's experience of this? And what do we think will happen to these trends post LASPO?