Improving Child and Family Arrangements (ICFA): a new service designed by Cafcass within private children proceedings
Whilst not widely publicised, the Child Contact Intervention (CCI) programme has now been replaced with the Improving Child and Family Arangements (ICFA) service.
What is the ICFA?
The ICFA was introduced on 1 May 2021 in place of the CCI service. The ICFA service is commissioned by Cafcass who have five regional providers that lead and co-ordinate the work in their areas.
To access the ICFA service within private law proceedings, a Family Court Advisor must assess that conflict between the parents is preventing safe and beneficial arrangements from being achieved, and make a recommendation to the court for a referral to the service to be directed. Therefore, the referral is a two stage process: firstly, it must be recommended by Cafcass and secondly, directed by the court. There must also be a clear commitment by the parties to undertake the work and the parties must have been ordered by the court with the proceedings to attend a Separated Parenting Information Programme (SPIP).
Proposed Work Plan (PWP)
Following receipt of a referral from Cafcass by an ICFA provider, they will contact both parents to complete a Proposed Work Plan (PWP). This will set out the agreed work to be undertaken, which will take place over a few weeks.
The specific work undertaken as part of an ICFA will depend on the individual needs of the family and may include:
- Meeting with parents individually and/or together to help them resolve issues, prepare for time with the child and agree a Parenting Plan.
- Working directly with the child to prepare them for time with their parent or family member.
- Observation of time the child spends with the parent or family member, offering guidance and support where necessary, and providing further insight into any potential risks.
At the end of the ICFA service, the provider will prepare a Final Report outlining the work completed and progress made which will be discussed with the family and shared with the court.
How is the ICFA different to the CCI?
The CCI programme was previously described by Cafcass as being a short-term intervention of supervised contact, designed to help adults and children establish safe and beneficial contact when this is difficult to do on their own.
The ICFA does not place the same emphasis on the supervision of contact, but rather helping families agree safe, beneficial and sustainanble child arrangements. Part of the ICFA might include observation of time between the child and the parent, although one core aspect of the ICFA is that it is flexible and tailored to the individual needs of the family. Therefore, the format of the programme is less prescriptive and may differ from family to family, in contrast to the more rigid parameters of the CCI scheme. The ICFA programme may also take place at home, in the community, at an office or a NACCC accredited contact centre or a combination of them all.
More information about the service can be found on the Cafcass website and within the ICFA factsheet (https://www.cafcass.gov.uk/download/14308).
However, the scheme is new and it is hoped that more detail will be provided by Cafcass as to what sort of cases will be considered suitable for the ICFA, average timescales for referrals to and engagement with the service, as well as what a PWP might look like in practice.
*Disclaimer: The information on the Anthony Gold website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. It is provided without any representations or warranties, express or implied.*
Victoria Brown is a Senior Associate Solicitor in the Family team, who practices in all areas of private family law, including divorce, dissolution, financial and children arrangements. If you would like to discuss these issues please contact her at email@example.com or on 020 7940 4060
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