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Guidance for clients of Cafcass Cymru about how the service will work during the coronavirus pandemic.

First published:
30 March 2020
Last updated:

As the situation changes, this information will be updated.

How will Cafcass Cymru communicate with me?

We are trying to minimise the impact of the current situation on our communications with you. To do this, our staff will work with you to agree how best to contact you and do their best to ensure you receive the information you need as we work with you.

We will be making use of the technology available to us and exploring how we make best use of tools, such as Skype, to maintain our services.

You’ll notice we will be asking you to work with us as we implement a move away from sending information via postal services to email. We will be implementing a new ID and email address verification process that will enable us to communicate more fully with you via email. We hope this will improve our communication with you and make sharing information much quicker and easier.

How do I contact my family Court Adviser or Cafcass Cymru office?

At this time, and for the foreseeable future, we are not able to receive or send communications via postal services so we ask you do not communicate with us in this way.

You can contact your Family Court Adviser via their team office by email or telephone. You can find these contact details at in the Contact section at the foot of the home page on our website.

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.

During this challenging time, we are encouraging parents to work together to find a solution and maintain a sense of routine for their children. Whilst children’s time with a parent could be affected, we would urge parents to trial different methods of communication for example, Skype, Zoom etc. We are working on more guidance for parents around this and will make this available on our website.

Read our separated families and child safety concerns and care proceedings pages for resources and details of organisations that can offer independent advice.

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, but in the context of the most up to date health guidelines. Please read 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 of 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.

Cafcass Cymru is moving to fully remote working. How will this affect my case?

In line with the latest advice from the Government, from Monday 23 March we will be closing 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 Cymru is promoting the use of Skype and telephone calls as ways of completing interviews with parents and direct work sessions with children and young people.

The Family Court Adviser working with you in your case will be in touch with you to discuss the communication needs of your child, and how best to engage with them in the context of the situation.

We will be doing our best to minimise the impact and any delays arising from remote working and we hope you’ll work with us as we strive to achieve this.

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 Cymru, your Family Court Adviser will also explain to you what is going to happen when they know.

In this situation your Family Court Adviser will use Skype or telephone conferencing to attend the hearing, which will be set up by the court or your solicitor.

What should I do if I am worried about my child’s safety?

If you have safeguarding concerns about your, or any, 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.

Since 23rd March all centres have had to close services to protect their staff and the families they are working with and we have made the difficult decision to suspend referrals to them for the time being. We will continue to review the situation and work proactively with our centres to ensure we are able to offer a range of services when it is safe and appropriate to do so.

Information provided to Child Contact Centres and the general public can be accessed here.

Will the Working Together For Children Programme (WT4C) still be available?

All of the providers of the WT4C programme have cancelled their face to face courses for the foreseeable future in line with government health guidelines.  However we are currently working with the providers to explore if the programme could be delivered via Skype so as to minimise the disruption to this service.  If you have already been referred to and accepted by a provider they will contact you directly about their arrangements.  All other referrals are on hold until we are able to confirm Skype arrangements moving forward.  We will update this information when further arrangements are confirmed.

Will Cafcass Cymru still be available to support First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointments (FHDRAs)?

Cafcass Cymru is committed to continuing to support First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointments (FHDRAs) albeit via telephone or skype.  We have been working closely with the courts to put in arrangements so that our Family Court Advisors will be available to advise and assist all FHDRAs in Wales.

Will Cafcass Cymru still collect DNA samples as part of its work?

At this time we will no longer offer our DNA collection service. We will review this decision as and when Government issues new guidance on the situation.

How will Cafcass Cymru respond to my FOI or Data Subject Access Request?

The Welsh Government is facing unprecedented challenges during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.  As a result resources, both finances and people, are being diverted away from many of our usual activities to deal with the pandemic. This will undoubtedly impact on our ability to comply with the normal requirements for information rights work and as a result you may experience delays when making information rights requests during the pandemic. We thank you for your understanding during this time.

Read further information from the Information Commissioner about information requests during the coronavirus pandemic.

Will Cafcass Cymru still respond to my complaint?

Yes. We will continue to work with service users who have concerns or wish to make a complaint about the service they have received. While we will strive to do this in line with our current timescales, we hope you’ll understand that, due to the current situation, in some cases this may not be possible. In all cases we will communicate clearly with you and ensure you are informed of any potential delays at the earliest opportunity.

Further information

Information from the following HM Courts and Tribunal Service and judicial office websites will offer those interested an opportunity to view key information in relation to how the courts and judges are responding to the coronavirus situation including guidance around remote court hearings.

Information and tips for families:

Information for children and young people:

Please note that Cafcass Cymru and the Welsh Government do not endorse any of these organisations and this information is provided for information only.