Cafcass publishes terms of reference for new Learning and Improvement Board

The Terms of Reference for Cafcass’ newly established Learning and Improvement Board have been published today (9 October). The Learning and Improvement Board will oversee an improvement programme for Cafcass’ work with children and families who have experienced domestic abuse. The priorities for improvement will draw on the findings of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) Expert Panel on Harm in the Family Courts (2020).

The Board will be co-chaired by Cathy Ashley (Chief Executive of Family Rights Group) and Angela Frazer-Wicks (Trustee of Family Rights Group and a founding member of its Parents’ Panel). The Board is made up of professionals, and parents and young people who have lived experience of the family justice system. The full membership of the Board can be found in the Terms of Reference.

Cafcass Chief Executive, Jacky Tiotto said:

“This Board will provide an important step for Cafcass in learning from the testimony of those who contributed to the findings of the MoJ’s Expert Panel on harm in the family courts. I am enormously grateful to our partners who have agreed to help us on this journey. Their expertise will help to oversee and energise improvements in Cafcass’ social work practice in relation to domestic abuse. Cafcass is committed to continually learning and improving our practice, and it’s important that we work with our partners from across the family justice system to understand good practice. This is an excellent opportunity for us to do this. It will also give us a space where we can listen and learn from children and parents who have experienced our service, allowing us to use this information to improve the quality of our practice.”

Co-chairs of the Learning and Improvement Board, Cathy Ashley and Angela Frazer-Wicks said:

“In order to improve our child welfare and family justice system, we need agencies including Cafcass to learn from failings and mistakes, and to seek out and promote examples of good practice. The price of not doing so is too high for individual adult and child survivors of domestic abuse.

We welcome the invitation to co-chair the Learning and Improvement Board and the decision to include young people and adults with lived experience of domestic abuse and the family court system on the Board. We will make it a priority that they are able to fully participate in the workings of the Board. This is one but by no means the only way children and families with experience of the system will help to shape future improvements.

As Chairs, it is our role to ensure that Board members feel able to oversee an improvement programme for Cafcass in relation to Cafcass’ work with children and families who have experienced domestic abuse. That includes ensuring board members are able to robustly challenge, scrutinise and acknowledge improvements. The Board has four objectives, each of key importance. Whether the Board succeeds will however, ultimately be determined by the fourth objective – whether it has increased confidence amongst families and representative organisations in the work of Cafcass.”

Cafcass Learning and Improvement Board – Terms of Reference


The calibre of the Co-Chairs should give all who interact with CAFCASS confidence in their seriousness to change.

What a shame that none of us who are the victims of psychological domestic abuse were never asked to contribute particularly where we were let down by CAFCASS!

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