Talking family justice, building on Cafcass’ ‘Outstanding’ result and cold water swimming
It’s been a whirlwind few weeks for Teresa Williams who has embraced her new role as Cafcass’ Director of Strategy. “I’ve really enjoyed my first month, and am already feel at home. The Ofsted judgement on day two was a great start, and it has been lovely to see the points made in their report reflected in the daily approach of everyone in Cafcass.”
Teresa has been impressed with the “strong commitment by everyone to improve the lives of young people in the family justice system” and has seen this first-hand when she accompanied Family Court Adviser at court to observe First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointments.
Most of Teresa’s career has been spent as the interface between research and policy development, in a range of government departments, and most recently at the Nuffield Foundation where she spent five years as Director, Justice and Welfare. With a wealth of experience behind her, Teresa is keen to dedicate herself to her favourite area. “Family justice is my first love, and I bring a strong understanding of the evidence base, a wide range of national and international contacts in research and policy, and an understanding of the wider system within which Cafcass operates.”
Teresa will directly manage the Policy, Research, Legal, and Communications teams, which comprise the Strategy Directorate. Improving outcomes for children is the overriding objective of the role, which will require ensuring the needs of service users and children are met effectively, and understanding and influencing the wider landscape in which Cafcass works.
“First, we’ll continue to develop our internal policies to ensure they are easy to understand based on the most current and best available evidence, provide the right framework for our internal practice, and of course deliver the intended outcomes. Secondly, family justice is a system so we’ll build on existing and identify new collaborative relationships with other organisations whose polices and practices affect our work. The role of the Communications and Legal teams alongside Policy is essential to this work.”
As Teresa becomes accustomed to life at Cafcass in the coming months, she hopes to make progress on her top three priorities:
- Getting out of London to visit other parts of the organisation.
- Working with Sarah Parsons and Anji Owens on the strategy for private law, building on the work already underway to introduce the new private law pathways and develop and test pilot interventions.
- Developing a clear set of research priorities for the internal research programme, and for the Family Justice Observatory, an initiative Teresa led at Nuffield.
Outside of the office Teresa likes to keep busy too and has recently taken up cold water swimming. “Recent weeks have seen me swim in water temperatures of 2 degrees with ice and snow all around. There is nothing like that buzz.” Teresa is also walking the Thames Path this year and hopes to complete the final stretch beyond the Thames Barrier by the end of December.
This analogy of achieving a goal after a long journey works well for Cafcass’ recent ‘Outstanding’ rating from Ofsted, which recognises the progress the organisation has made over four years of hard work and dedication by all staff. “We need to maintain our relentless focus on outcomes for children, and our commitment to continuous improvement,” says Teresa. “Given things are changing around us, including the continued increase in demand and funding pressures, we can’t stand still. We need to continue to innovate and find new ways of working which are sustainable, and to continue to do this in a disciplined, evidence-based way through the integrated efforts of our National Improvement Service and Strategy Team.”