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.”


Our social workers exercise professional judgement in each case about the level and format of their contact with children. The exception is in private law cases, like the type you’ve outlined in your comment, where the court rules state that we do not work with children before the first hearing.

When the court directs us to continue working with a family after the first hearing, we will have sufficient contact with the child to enable us to understand their situation. Sections 2.10-2.16 of our Operating Framework explain how we work with children, including children with additional communication support needs.

If you have any specific questions about our work in your case, please contact the local team or the call centre.

I could find little in the Ofsted Report or in the online Cafcass documentation about how young children and those with little speech are sought by Cafcass officers. My experience in 2018 is that Cafcass sometimes are satisfied with a quick, non-booked phone call to each parent (when in conflict about residency and resorting to Court) then writing this up, very close to the Hearing date (like the day before) then presenting it in Court.
How does the above practice reflect the statements in the Ofsted report (2018)?
How does this marry with Cafcass’ claim to ‘put the children’s needs, wishes and feelings first……..’?
How does this link with the claim that ‘Cafcass represents children in family court cases in England’?

Perhaps Cafcass can enlighten me on these points?

[Edited by moderator, comment contained information about an individual case]

Leave a response

Newsletter sign up

Subscribe to our mailing list