Improving Child and Family Arrangements (“IFCA”) is the relatively new service being offered by Cafcass and which is designed to “help families agree safe, beneficial and sustainable spending time with arrangements when they are finding it difficult to do so on their own”. It is a replacement for the Child Contact Intervention programme which was a short-term intervention focused upon establishing supervised contact.
A referral to IFCA by Cafcass can be directed in private law proceedings where Cafcass are involved and recommend the programme and where the parties have been directed to attend the Separated Parents Information Programme. Importantly, there must be a clear commitment by the parties to undertake the work.
There are a number of regional providers of the service which supports families to make the most suitable arrangements for children by:
• Reducing barriers and resistance to agreeing arrangements, and managing any risks so that these are safe
• Promoting positive communication within families
• Ensuring children’s wishes and feelings are heard and considered
• Helping families agree a Parenting Plan to avoid future issues arising
In Kent, the contracted providers of the service are Following Whispers and Foundations Kent
The work will take place over a relatively short period of time and may involve meeting the parents individually and/or together, working directly with the child/children to prepare them for time with a parent or family member and the observation of the time that a child spends with the parent or family member offering guidance and support where necessary.
At the end of the IFCA 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 Family Court Adviser in the case who can then use the information contained in the assessment to feed into a section 7 report.
The service is free to families although they will have to pay for their own expenses (e.g. travel and costs of any activities or refreshments).
It is very much hoped that this service will be well funded and resourced so that it can be used as an additional tool to resolve difficult child arrangements disputes within the family court.