Welfare Checklist 1989 Children's Act
We help you understand the complex issues before the court, in most cases we find that several applications are made in support of contact and residence issues, this unfortunate approach is suggested by solicitors due to the cost factor of multiple applications. we suggest you contact us regards any corespondents you have received from solicitors. it may well be the case case that we could avoid going to court altogether.
Sometimes the court has the unfortunate task of deciding the best interests for a child. Before they decide if they should make an order and what that order will be; the Family Court Reporter must prepare a report considering a variety of factors surrounding the child’s interests. This report called the “Welfare Report” prepared by the CAFCASS (Child and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) officer; must include information from seven key elements of a checklist. This list is known as the “Welfare Checklist”.
The welfare of the child is of utmost importance to the court; any questions the court has surrounding a child and their upbringing must adhere to the Welfare Checklist which is found in section one (1) of The Children Act, 1989. Along with this checklist, the Family Court Reporter will request information from family associates, interview family members and watch interaction between the child and family members. The wording of the Welfare Checklist is as follows:
The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in light of his age and understanding);
His physical, emotional and/or educational needs;
The likely effect on him of any change in his circumstances
His age, sex, background and any characteristics of his, which the court considers relevant
Any harm which he has suffered or is at risk of suffering
How capable each of his parents and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting his needs
The range of powers available to the court (under the Children Act of 1989) in the proceedings in question.
Let’s look at an example of each point for a clearer understanding.
A required question must be asked of the child; “what do you want to do?” Given the option it is only sensible that the court ask for the child’s opinions where possible. The delicate situation for the court is whether or not the child is old enough to understand the very serious nature of the court’s questions.
Perhaps a child has special physical needs such as wheelchair access or particular physiotherapy for example; the court must take these into consideration when rendering a decision. Questions like “Is the child presently in the better school environment?” need to be asked when the court is considering moving the child to a different location.
While change of any environment will have an effect on a child, the court must determine what the impact will be and if it is positive or detrimental to the current situation.
This rather broad point raises a key issue; the current state of a child’s development. An extreme example is this; a child is removed from a negative situation involving gambling. Given the background of the family and child’s history, any possible changes to the child’s environment should be void of any gambling aspect. While the new environment may be positive overall, the child’s background could in fact create a worse situation.
Basically if the child has suffered, will the court’s decision help relive some of that trauma?
Can the person with the PR (Parental Responsibility) meet the challenge for the care of the child?
What does the court have the power to do at the time of the proceedings?
The welfare checklist is a vital component for the court when deciding on issuing an order affecting a child’s welfare. The checklist criteria are somewhat vague; however this probably makes for a broader interpretation for the court when coming to a decision.
The Family Justice Council has produced guidelines for judges meeting children [April 2010]. In short the judge's function is not to elicit evidence but to help the child feel that their views have been heard. In June 2010 the author invited the judge to see two articulate girls, aged 10 and 12, who were very keen to be heard. At that stage it seemed likely that the judge would not make an order for relocation in accordance with their expressed wishes and therefore it was desirable for that reason alone that they be listened to. The judge saw the children with a CAFCASS officer present (at short notice). The questions he proposed to put to the children were ventilated in court in advance. A point may often be made that the child has no conception of what it would be like to be separated from his other parent and his habitual environment for more than a short time. He will usually reflect the wishes of the parent with whom he lives. It is all very well to assume that a child is resilient and will adapt readily to a change but this is speculative. When questioning a CAFCASS officer, it is important to elicit the underlying facts underpinning her opinions. Where is the evidence? How can he or she know or predict? CAFCASS officers may sometimes stray beyond the area in which they are trained and take into account distorted information fed to them by one party
More About the role of cafcass
The Starting Point in a nutshell
In private law cases the child is not automatically a party to the proceedings and will not automatically be represented by a guardian. However the court can request a welfare report under s7 Children Act 1989, either from the local authority or from a Children and Family Reporter who is an officer appointed by Cafcass. The report will usually inform the court of the child's wishes and feelings, but the officer will recommend what they think is in the child's best interests in the circumstances of the case rather than just advocate the child's wishes
Cases that are between private individuals, usually under s8 Children Act 1989. Where someone seeks an order under s8 in respect of a child who is in the care of the local authority it will be considered a public law matter and rules relating to Children's Guardians will apply.
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