Family Assistance Orders (FAOs)
74. Section 16 of the Children Act 1989 makes
provision for Family Assistance Orders (FAOs). A court may make
such an order in respect of a child requiring a local authority,
CAFCASS or Welsh family proceedings officer to advise, assist
and, where appropriate, befriend a person named in the order.
Although generally viewed as a helpful facility, the use of FAOs
has been limited.
Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss explained that there were four main
difficulties with the orders and the way that they were administered:
- "The FAO lasts only for 6
months. It is unrealistic to expect that the problems which have
led to the making of an FAO can be resolved within this short
- Every party has to agree to the order being made.
If one party does not agree to the order, for whatever reason,
and whether or not justified, the order cannot be made.
- The FAO is generally allocated to Local Authorities,
many of which do not give the orders sufficient priority, and
in some cases may refuse to implement them.
- The Home Office has not allocated adequate funding
to administer the scheme."
75. A further limitation on the use of FAOs is
imposed by the requirement in section 16(3) of the Children
Act 1989 that the court must be "satisfied that the circumstances
of the case are exceptional" before it can make the order.
76. The Green Paper recognised that FAOs were
a "further means of facilitating contact" and that they
required reform. The Green Paper stated that "it may be helpful
to remove the current requirement that the orders may only be
made in exceptional circumstances or for there to be more flexibility
about their duration".
The Government proposed to "legislate, as needed, to revise
the arrangements for the use of FAOs".
77. The draft Bill, however, makes no mention
of FAOs. Several witnesses, including the National Youth Advisory
Service (NYAS), argued that it should:
"We are puzzled by the lack of procedural links
with other relevant pieces of legislation
it would appear
that an important legislative opportunity to strengthen the statutory
provisions of s.16 Children Act 1989 Family Assistance Orders
to support families in conflict has been missed."
78. The Committee considers that, while the focus
of much of the draft Bill is on developing effective sanctions
that can be employed when one or other parent flouts the court's
order, genuine progress in cases involving embattled parents is
likely to require sustained engagement in order to address the
underlying causes of resistance and, in some instances, to educate
parents in a better appreciation of their children's needs. Sanctions
may on occasion be necessary, but they are not the only way of
achieving behaviour change.
79. We recommend, in respect of Family Assistance
Orders, that the full Bill should:
(i) remove the requirement for there to
be 'exceptional circumstances';
(ii) remove the need to obtain the consent
of all those who are to be named in the order;
(iii) permit an order to be made for up
to 12 months in the first instance (in line with the facilitation
and monitoring provisions of clause 2), and to be renewed for
an unlimited period of time if necessary; and
(iv) require that FAOs should be operated
by CAFCASS, or a Welsh family proceedings officer, which is equipped
to carry out such work, and not local authorities.