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.”


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

I assist men going through family courts. In the last 6 years I’ve yet to meet a women solicitor or barrister who don’t tell you that fathers are discriminated against – “the sum of all prejudices” as one put it; to the detriment of the children. The numerous examples of Cafcass’s failings would appal any decent parent. The mothers who fail drug tests, fail rehab but are left in charge of pre & primary school aged children, the mothers who, time and again, don’t comply with court contact orders, who denigrate and alienate the fathers. And each time nothing is done. Worst of all when children raise these issues it qualifies as a mention in the Cafcass report. If anything is raised against the father there’s lots of follow-up questions and the term “emotional abuse” is banded about.

It’s accepted that the most junior, least qualified and least experienced child social workers undertake the private law cases.

The saddest part of all is – by and large the father, in the long-term, is proved right.

It’s pointless having tools in place if they are not used. Parental alienation is not being recognised by your people. They do not complete the on line training! and are not aware of the high conflict pathway – clearly something is going wrong – please recognise it and address rather than hiding behind a report and naively thinking the right thing is being done, believe me it isn t and the children you say you protect are being harmed

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”.

CAFCASS You do not listen to children; you do not understand psychological and emotional abuse; you use the term anxious mother and parental alienation as your get out clause; you punish mothers for their real concerns for their children; it is high time you looked at domestic abuse beyond the physical violence and understand what is happening time and time again through the court system with psychological and emotional abuse.

Good evening
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?

Outstanding eh? But only in leadership…..NOTHING ELSE! The Ofsted report doesn’t lie.

Well one can only assume that Ofsted skipped the complaints procedure within Cafcass. Let’s face it, Cafcass do not admit their mistakes as they are untouchable. If you persist to continue with your valid complaints, you will be met by egotists, who I shall refer to as Mr D and Mr L in this case and they will then play the “Vexatious” card on you…..if only I could have £1 for every letter I have read from Cafcass to service users that have complained and have received such back….I’d be a wealthy person. Once the complaint is in, that’s it, you might as well kiss goodbye to seeing your children. The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) will be more than happy to tell you on the phone that if Cafcass didn’t exist, then there would be job cuts within the PHSO…..that’s a clear indication as to how many cases they get relating to Cafcass.

1) The leadership and governance of the national organisation
2). The leadership and management of local services
1) The quality and effectiveness of Cafcass private law practice with
2) The quality and effectiveness of Cafcass public law practice with
Ref: https://reports.ofsted.gov.uk/sites/default/files/documents/cafcass-reports/national_report_2018/Cafcass_national_inspection_report_2018.pdf

“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”….well we know what happens to staff members that speak out don’t we….Charles Place…..http://www.pinktape.co.uk/uncategorized/open-letter-cafcass/

So this outstanding report is just an indication that only the leadership team are outstanding! A clear indication that CAFCASS is STILL FAILING THE CHILDREN!

Dear Mr Douglas – Please reassure me that despite this report, you will address parental alienation and empower your people with the tools, knowledge and time to understand the harm and damage that is caused, when they do not recognise parental alienation is in play. If you could take the time to look at the Families need Fathers page you will see a post dated Friday 30/3/18 which has numerous comments relaying heart breaking and painful stories. I believe that it is morally wrong to ask a child in a high conflict situation, where there are no safe guarding issues, if they want to see their non resident parent. How can that child answer yes knowing the disappointment and anger it will cause the resident parent? I ask you, how can one of your people know without a doubt following one meeting with such a child, what their ascertainable wants and wishes are? The simple answer is they don’t and this is causing awful damage to these children’s mental well being. I can only raise your awareness of what is happening out there, you can make a positive difference to these children, but will you?

Cafcass and Ofsted you really need to investigate the comments raised on the last post of Family needs Fathers, both parents matter, to give your organisations a true understanding of what it is like for the frontline “customers” at ground level who have no option but to use your services. A powerful voice for children, utter nonsense as I see a completely different and disturbing captured report from those families using your services. How many of your Cafcass staff have completed the voluntary online training for Parental alienation? Pity we don’t have the figures for that. Don’t rest on this outstanding report, the tide is about to change.

To what extent did Ofsted take into account the views of the people and notably women who have been very poorly served by Cafcass. If there is a complaints procedure it is very difficult for them to use as they are bound by the decisions Cafcass makes. Social media is full of people being badly let down.

I am not suprised that CAFCASS got an outstanding result as there is literally no way for people to complain or challenge them formally ; we are told if you disagree with the lack of safeguarding, poor reporting, poor welfare check lists the only way to complain is in a closed family court ??????????

Of course they got outstanding !!!!

What a joke – there should be an investigation on CAFCASS

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