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5.2.5 Joint Protocol with CAFCASS

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This protocol intends to ensure Children And Family Court Advisory And Support Services (CAFCASS) Officers are able to obtain relevant information from case files in a timely and professional manner. Conforming to data protection requirements and ensuring that Information Governance and the Caldicott principles are taken in account. The protocol outlines arrangements for visiting Children’s Services Offices when seeking to obtain information from case files by CAFCASS staff. The protocol seeks to inform staff of the types of information CAFCASS require and the procedure for obtaining information.


Contents

  1. Aim
  2. Background
  3. Process for Care/Adoption/Public Law/Private Law Proceedings
  4. Schedule of Confidential Partner Agency Materials in Children's Services Files
  5. Request for Copies of Information from Children's File


1. Aim

This protocol will support the request from CAFCASS Officers to ensure a consistent approach to visits and the provision of facilities ensuring that CAFCASS Officers have access to Local Authority records pursuant to their rights to examine and take copies of documents as set out in S42 Children Act 1989 and the principle of Information Governance and Caldicott are taken in account.

To protect the integrity of the multi-agency sharing of information arrangements that are key to Safeguarding children and underpin the Public Protection Arrangements there is some information which is compiled by partner agencies in performance of their functions which is of such a sensitive nature that access to this material by the CAFCASS Officer will be deferred until the consent of the Agency has been obtained by the Local Authority to ensure that the safety of the child, the family and the general public are not inadvertently compromised and further that any pending/ongoing criminal investigations/prosecutions are not compromised.

Multi-agency sharing of information in a number of arenas is often agreed to on a specific basis and it is vital to the integrity of these processes that consent from the responsible Agency be obtained in advance of any disclosure if we are to ensure Professionals have confidence that their information will not be further disclosed without their permission or by Order of the Court.


2. Background

CAFCASS: The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Services were formed on 1 April 2001. It brings together the services previously provided by the Family Court Welfare Services, the Guardian ad Litem Services and the Children’s Division of the Official Solicitors Office.

The role of CAFCASS is to safeguard and promote the welfare of children involved in family court proceedings and public law.

CAFCASS is independent of the courts, children’s services, education and health authorities and all similar agencies.

CAFCASS deal in three types of cases:

  1. Public Law - Care Proceedings - Children’s Guardian;
  2. Adoptions - Children’s Guardian/Reporting Officer/Children and Family Reporter;
  3. Private Law - Divorce/Residence/Contact cases - Children’s Guardian.

Where information is shared within court proceedings the nature of these proceedings means that information cannot be disclosed without the permission of the court.

However, under the Family Procedure (Amendment No 4) Rules 2005, parties/legal representatives can disclose information from court proceedings to specific groups of people for specific purposes. 3rd parties can make representations to the court, prior to disclosure if they wish to object to full or partial disclosure.


3. Process for Care/Adoption/Public Law/Private Law Proceedings

The CAFCASS officer will contact the Lead Social Worker of the child/children they are representing.

If the CAFCASS officer does not know who the Lead Social Worker is then they will contact the Customer Service Centre to determine who to contact - 01522 782111.

If the Lead Social Worker is not available, Business Support must ensure full details are taken and passed to either the Lead Social Worker on their return or their line manager.

An appointment will be made in order that the case file can be inspected by the CAFCASS officer with the relevant Lead Social Worker.

The Lead Social Worker will inform the Team Manager of the pending visit by a CAFCASS officer.

The case file will be checked by the Lead Social Worker to ensure that all legal advice is removed from the file and that any legal advice contained in running records is also removed or suitably edited.

The case worker will review the file and identify, prior to the CAFCASS officers review of the file, any confidential/Partner Agency Materials (as set out in the annexed schedule) which they anticipate the CAFCASS officer would want sight of and use their best endeavours to obtain the consent of the relevant Agency to disclose any such documents in advance of the CAFCASS officers review of the file. The Information Governance Team will be able to assist in this matter but it will remain the responsibility of the case worker to prepare the file and seek agency authorisation.

If prior to the CAFCASS officers review of the file consent from the Agency has not been obtained then the case worker will review the confidential documents/restricted access sections of the file and remove any documents, as identified in the schedule annexed to this Protocol, and replace the document with a sheet of paper stating the type of document removed and referring the CAFCASS officer to seek further information from the Team Manager about how to access the removed document. Following the file being viewed by the CAFCASS officer any removed document(s) should be replaced in the confidential section of the file and a note attached to the document recording if access has been sought or granted or what further action is being taken and the reasoning behind such a decision.

The confidential items listed on the schedule annexed to this policy must not be disclosed to the CAFCASS officer until the Local Authority has the consent of the Agency who provided the document is. For example, requests for Multi Agency Public Protection (MAPP) information must be directed to MAPP Strategic Management Board (via the Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) Manager); request for police material must be made via the Head of the Public Protection Unit at Lincolnshire Police; request for copies of Serious Case Reviews via the Business Manager of the Lincolnshire Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB); request for Health information via the relevant Health senior liaison officer.

The Lead Social Worker or nominated person will arrange to book a room (not the practitioner’s team room) with the Operations Manager or nominated contact in order that the CAFCASS Officer can inspect the file. An electronic appointment will be made to book the room. The meeting will be held within a building which accommodates Children’s Services, but away from the team room.

The CAFCASS Officer may inspect and take copies of the child’s records (ref: Children’s Services Manual G4 2.3.2 & S42 CA 1989), subject to the prior consent of Agencies listed in the Schedule attached to this Protocol. (CAFCASS Officer may highlight the documents required and approach Business Support to ask for relevant information to be copied).

Copies taken must be to meet a purpose, kept safe in line with Caldicott principles as per CAFCASS information governance procedures and will be shredded when no longer required.

The CAFCASS Officer will be requested to sign a declaration to confirm that they have taken copies of information from within the case file and detail the purpose the information will be used for. This is in compliance with the Data Protection Act.

At the end of the visit the CAFCASS Officer will return the file to the Lead Social Worker or nominated person.


4. Schedule of Confidential Partner Agency Materials in Children's Services Files

The following items are classed as Partner Agency Materials and should be removed from the Children’s File and replaced with a sheet of paper indicating the type of document removed prior to the inspection of a file by a CAFCASS officer:

  1. Information/reports derived from MAPPA meetings;
  2. Information/reports from the police detailing which includes Intelligence information and any information in connection with any pending/ongoing police investigation/prosecution;
  3. Information/reports in relation to Serious Case Reviews;
  4. Any health information pertaining to an adult that is not relevant to the case:- examples may include mental health issues and substance misuse that do not impact on parenting capacity, particularly historical issues and past obstetric history.

See Request for Copies of Information from Children's File Form Request below.


5. Request for Copies of Information from Children's File

Click here to view the Request for Copies of Information from Children's File.

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