Putting children and young people first in the family courts


Research at Cafcass


Cafcass is committed to evidence-informed practice based on, amongst other things, good quality research. As a part of this commitment, every year Cafcass becomes involved with research projects. In some cases the research is initiated by Cafcass. In other situations, external researchers contact Cafcass, asking for our help with their research.


Doing research involving Cafcass

There are a number of ways you might want to involve Cafcass in your research, including:

  • Interviewing Cafcass staff
  • Obtaining information about our work from electronic and paper records
  • Contacting children and families who have received Cafcass services to ask if they want to participate in research projects.

If you are interested in doing research that involves Cafcass in any way, including the above, you must first obtain approval from the organisation using the application form below.  Before completing the form, please read the Research Governance Framework which provides information on how we make decisions on research applications. If you’re unsure whether your project will meet the criteria set out in the Framework, please contact us at the below address before making an application so that we can advise you.

Research Governance Framework

Application Form

Please send your form or any queries you may have to:



Research carried out by Cafcass

Cafcass has carried out research into many areas of family justice; you can access the research reports from these projects below.


Recent research projects


Learning from Cafcass submissions to Serious Case Reviews 2009-2016 (2017)

This report follows similar previous studies about the learning derived from Cafcass submissions to Serious Case Reviews (SCRs) in 2016, looking into the children and families involved, the serious incident, the known risks known at the time the case was open to Cafcass, and practice learning. It also analyses data from 97 submissions to SCRs between 2009-2016 to identify themes across the larger number of cases, including: how and when children suffer fatal/serious maltreatment; the prevalence of domestic abuse; who perpetrated the serious incidents and how this related to identified risks during proceedings.


Allegations of domestic abuse in child contact cases (2017)

A small-scale study undertaken with Women's Aid to look at domestic abuse allegations in 216 private law applications for contact. This features both quantitative and qualitative findings. All data collection and analysis was conducted by Cafcass; Women’s Aid contributed advice on the methodology and gave comment on the final report.


Study of data held by Cafcass in cases featuring trafficking as a 'child need' (2017)

This study looks at 82 cases concerning 97 children, where Cafcass Family Court Advisers had identified trafficking as a concern within the case. This version has been created for the purpose of sharing with external agencies and partners, and case examples have been anonymised.  


Past research projects


Study of data held by Cafcass in cases featuring radicalisation concerns (2016)

This small-scale study looked at 54 cases in which Cafcass practitioners had identified evidence, risk or an allegation of radicalisation, with data collected in January 2016. It also draws on the expertise of Cafcass' child exploitation ambassadors and champions. This version has been created for the purpose of sharing with external agencies and partners, and case examples have been anonymised.


What happened next? A study of interim outcomes following private law proceedings as reported by parents six to nine months on. (2016)

This is the report into the third annual national survey carried out by Cafcass. Like the previous two surveys, it is based on a sample of parents’ views about private law cases. Unlike the previous surveys it seeks principally to explore ‘what happened next’, inquiring into how arrangements made at court have worked out for parents and their children six to nine months after the conclusion of proceedings.


Study into Cafcass’ role at First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointments (2016)

This report presents the findings of a study which aimed to investigate to what extent Cafcass FCAs were meeting the expectations set out in the CAP in relation to FHDRAs. The study consisted of: a survey of Family Court Advisers in respect of 300 FHDRAs; interviews with a small sample of FCAs; and interviews with a small sample of judges and one legal adviser.


Learning from Cafcass Submissions to Serious Case Reviews (2015)

This report follows similar studies in 2013 and 2014 about the learning derived from Cafcass submissions to Serious Case Reviews (SCRs). This study seeks to build on the previous ones by presenting data around three broad areas: children and families; index incidents and risk; and practice. The study also enquires separately into cases where child sexual exploitation was a feature


Case file review of special guardianship orders (2015)
This qualitative case file review contributed to the Department for Education review of special guardianship orders. The core purpose of the study was to describe what was known about the families and special guardians, and the assessment process for such orders.


Cafcass study into Parental Order applications made in 2013-14 (2015)

In order to become their child’s legal parents in the UK, parents of children born through a surrogacy arrangement (‘commissioning couples’) are required to apply to the family court for a Parental Order. This descriptive study provides information derived from Cafcass data on applications for Parental Orders made in April 2013 – March 2014.


Study of child and adolescent mental health (2015)

This small-scale study was commissioned by the Cafcass Chief Executive to identify the prevalence and nature of child mental health concerns raised in Cafcass cases; to identify the services received by the children and young people; and to consider the policy implications.


Report of an analysis of rule 16.4 appointments considered by the courts in September 2014

This research study aims to provide an understanding of the nature and extent of rule 16.4 (‘r16.4’) appointments across Cafcass, in the context of the new Child Arrangements Programme (CAP).


Service user feedback survey (2014)

The aim of the survey is to gain feedback from children and families about the impact of Cafcass’ work on them (Cafcass Strategic Plan 2013-15). This national survey was conducted by the Policy team which is located in the Cafcass National Office, and which is independent from the operational line of management. The service users included were adults who had been parties to private law applications which involved WAFH.


Three weeks in November...five years on (2014)

This study captured the views of 304 guardians on the decisions of local authorities in care applications received by Cafcass during a three week period in November 2013. It follows studies of the same format carried out in 2012 and 2009.


Learning from Cafcass’ submissions to IMRs (2014)

This report follows a similar study published in 2013, about the learning derived from Cafcass submissions to Serious Case Reviews (SCRs). The study also inquires separately into cases where child sexual exploitation was a feature.

Service user feedback survey (2013)

The work of children's guardians in care cases

Learning from Cafcass Individual Management Reviews (IMRs)

Pre-proceedings pilot interim research report - April 2012

Three weeks in November...three years on (2012)

Cafcass analysis of congruence study - 2012

Cafcass research on the use of expert witnesses


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