Watershed moment for Cafcass as inspectors deliver ‘Outstanding’ rating for child-centred practice

The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) has been rated ‘Outstanding’ by inspectors in a report which praises the organisation’s continuous improvement against a backdrop of rising demand.

Since Cafcass’ last Ofsted inspection in 2014, when the organisation was rated ‘Good’, demand has increased significantly. The latest data (April 17 – February 18) shows a 25.9% rise in new cases compared with the same period for 2014/15, equating to 11,472 more cases.

Despite the pressures from this growth, Ofsted said in its report released today that listening to children, understanding their world and acting on their views are strongly embedded in practice in both public and private law in Cafcass. They noted that the vast majority of Cafcass staff at all levels consistently provide excellent quality services for children, their families and family courts.

Speaking about the result, Cafcass Chief Executive, Anthony Douglas said:

“I am thrilled with the inspection findings. ‘Outstanding’ judgements in our sector are exceptionally rare and we are very proud to join the three other children’s social work organisations who have achieved this.

“As the largest employer of social workers in the country, being judged as ‘outstanding’ shows just what social workers can achieve. I am proud of all of our staff and all that they do, particularly our shared values about the importance of helping children and young people get to a better place in their lives. Cafcass is a great place to practise social work and we intend to now take our work to the next level. We will have to do this merely to stand still, considering the pressures we are under – the same pressures as all social work teams and organisations.”

 

For the past nine years Cafcass, who help over 130,000 children a year, has been on a strong path of continuous improvement. Beginning from an inadequate base in 2009 and one that the Public Accounts Committee said was ‘not fit for purpose’ in 2010, to an Ofsted judgement of ‘Good’ in 2014 and now ‘Outstanding’ in 2018.

 

Ofsted’s inspectors also reported the following:

  • Most direct work is well planned, done at the child’s pace, and ensures that the child understands what is happening. Stronger reports are enhanced by using the child’s own words resulting in the powerful voice of children informing recommendations to the court.
  • Cafcass practitioners’ effective and authoritative practice adds value and leads to better outcomes for the majority of children.
  • Exceptional, aspirational corporate leaders work relentlessly to ensure that children and their families benefit from good or outstanding services.
  • Despite having high workloads, staff who spoke to inspectors felt extremely positive about working for an organisation in which they are treated well, as professional adults, and their views and needs are important and highly valued. In the Ofsted survey of Cafcass staff, 97% agreed or strongly agreed that Cafcass continually strives to improve.

 

Family Justice Minister Lucy Frazer said:

“I warmly congratulate Cafcass on these inspection findings, which reflect the talent and dedication of its staff at all levels. It is heartening that inspectors recognise its success in securing better prospects for so many children and young people.

“I have no doubt it will use this as a springboard to raise standards even higher in future.”

Cafcass Chair, Baroness Tyler of Enfield, said:

“I am simply delighted with Ofsted’s findings and very proud of the outstanding contribution made by everyone at Cafcass from frontline practitioners through to senior managers and the Board. It is truly heart-warming to see the extent to which our outstanding frontline practice has been recognised and to know the positive difference this makes to the lives of vulnerable children and families going through a very difficult stage in their lives. Our journey as an organisation has been an incredible one, which the report captures extremely well. I hope this report is widely circulated and read within the family justice and children’s social care sectors.”




4 Comments

The damaging impact of parental conflict and alienating behaviours are well known. The High Conflict Practice Pathway has been developed to provide a clearer framework for the robust assessment of the impact of such behaviours on children and to help practitioners see more closely what is happening in each case. The pathway enhances our existing practice tools such as the Impact of parental conflict tool, guidance and research available to our practitioners in these cases, as well as introducing new resources. It supports the accurate and early identification of exactly what is happening for each child, distinguishing between parental alienation and the justified rejection of a parent by a child due to inappropriate or harmful behaviour. As with all of our work, the pathway keeps the child’s needs, wishes and feelings central to the recommendations we make to the court on who they should live with or spend time with. For further information on the pathway please see our website page here: https://www.cafcass.gov.uk/grown-ups/parents-and-carers/divorce-and-separation/high-conflict-practice-pathway/.

Cafcass is an outstanding organisation who listens and takes into consideration the paramount needs and considerations of the child’s needs and views in everyday they are a brilliant organisation and thankyou for everything you have done and are doing for my daughter Lisa martin

Since the 2014 inspection we have strengthened how we ascertain and report the wishes and feelings of children. Our practitioners have access to a range of evidence-informed practice tools (https://www.cafcass.gov.uk/grown-ups/professionals/resources-for-professionals/) and interactive apps to support their direct work with children. We presented on this work at our open Board meeting in January (https://www.cafcass.gov.uk/about-cafcass/reports-and-strategies/board-meetings-reports/#).

The recent Ofsted inspection found, in private law, “strong evidence of how children’s wishes and feelings are actively sought…FCAs advocate well on their behalf to produce high-quality reports that tell the child’s story. There is a strong emphasis on understanding the impact on children”. In our public law work, Ofsted found “effective and sensitive direct work with children to ascertain their wishes and feelings” in most cases, and reports that are “evaluative, succinct and well balanced, with a strong child impact analysis”.

The 2014 Ofsted report stated:

’25. Reporting children’s wishes and feelings to the court is effective, but this could be strengthened further by making children’s wishes and feelings more clearly articulated within the case analysis in addition to reporting them verbatim. This is also the case in public law casework.’

This is an important and significant recommendation that would enhance practice if it was followed. I have seen a number of s 7 reports lately. None of them follow the recommendation. Furthermore the 2018 report does not even mention this point. The does not seem to be any discussion regarding why it has been ignore by Cafcass and Ofsted.

Perhaps Cafcass can shed some light upon this?



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