COVID-19 guidance for children and families
Cafcass has put together the following guidance to support children and families as the situation surrounding COVID-19 develops. We will do everything we can to help you and make sure that our service continues to run as effectively as possible. This information will be regularly updated. If the information below does not answer your questions, please get in contact with us here.
Advice for families on effective co-parenting and child arrangements
On 23 March, the government published full guidance on staying at home and away from others, which clarified that where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents' homes. On 24 March, the President of the Family Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane, provided additional advice on compliance with Family Court Child Arrangement Orders.
Our National Improvement Service has put together some advice to encourage effective co-parenting and help maintain your child's routine in these uncertain times. It is important that families amicably try to find solutions that are in the best interests of the child and the health of those around them. Please click here for the advice.
Please also visit our resources for parents and carers page which provides a list of other resources and organisations that can offer independent advice.
Cafcass is going to fully remote working. How will this affect my case?
From Monday 23 March, we will be closing down all our offices to the public and the majority of our staff will be working remotely. Due to the increasing concerns about the spread of COVID-19, Cafcass is promoting the use of Skype and looking into other forms of video conferencing, such as WhatsApp and FaceTime, as a way of completing interviews with parents and direct work sessions with children and young people. We will be doing our best to minimise any delays arising from remote working.
We have issued guidance to our Family Court Advisers to make sure that video conferencing will be used effectively during assessments, safely, and in the most cost-effective way for our families. While we are encouraging the use of video conferencing, if the child or parent raises concerns about this then an alternative arrangement will be considered. The Family Court Adviser working with you in your case will be in touch with you to discuss video conferencing if it is required.
I have an upcoming court date. Will I be required to attend?
The President of the Family Court has published guidance saying it will be moving to remote hearings with immediate effect. You or your solicitor will receive information on what this means for any upcoming hearing you have. If you have a case with Cafcass, your Family Court Adviser will also explain to you what is going to happen when they know.
Should my child still travel between parents as per the court order?
The Government has now clarified that where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents' homes. Please read the Cafcass advice on effective co-parenting during a pandemic and the advice issued by the President of the Family Division for further information on complying with a Child Arrangements Order.
Should my child still travel between parents if the child has or might have COVID-19?
If your child has contracted the COVID-19 virus or they are displaying any the symptoms listed on the Government health advice pages they should be self-isolating and should not be transferring between households. If you are worried your child has contracted the COVID-19 virus you should follow the Government advice on reporting new COVID-19 cases and alert your Family Court Adviser. If you are concerned your child has an existing health condition, you're pregnant, or someone in your household has a health condition that makes them vulnerable to the impact of the virus then you should read the Government health advice here.
What should I do if I am worried about my child's safety?
If you have safeguarding concerns about your child, you should raise these with your local authority's children's services department, which has the statutory responsibility for investigating safeguarding concerns. Contact details can be found here.
Are Child Contact Centres affected by COVID-19 and what does this mean?
Child Contact Centres have been in the very difficult situation of having to make judgements about whether they are able to offer services that are safe and effective whilst also being equally concerned about not taking steps to cause unnecessary disruption to the attachments that children have and seek to maintain with people they care about but no longer live with. It is with regret that for some centres the only way they have been able to guarantee the safety of children and their families has been to close services.
Many centres have been able to take steps to stay open and to continue offering their services. The National Association of Child Contact Centres (NACCC) and Cafcass will continue to work proactively with these centres to ensure that there is a diverse range of services where this is safe and appropriate. Whilst some of these will also have to close in the coming days and weeks, we will continue to do our best to keep on supporting the children and families that rely on Child Contact Centres.
Members of the public should contact NACCC or your local contact centre to find out what services are available locally. Information about how to find and contact your local centre can be found here. Information provided to Child Contact Centres and the general public can be accessed here.