Results of Ofsted’s inspection of Cafcass
In March 2018 Cafcass was inspected by Ofsted for the second time. Ofsted rated Cafcass as ‘Outstanding’ and praised the continuous improvement against a backdrop of rising demand since Cafcass’ last inspection in 2014.
Summary of key findings:
- Exceptional, aspirational corporate and operational leaders work relentlessly to ensure that children and their families benefit from good or outstanding services. Shared priorities are communicated clearly. Listening to children, understanding their world and acting on their views are strongly embedded in practice in both public and private law. This is enhanced by the splendid work carried out by the influential Family Justice Young People’s Board (FJYPB).
- Since the last inspection, the chief executive, together with the national service director and supported by an effective and active board, have worked diligently to develop and support a culture of continuous learning and improvement. Stability of leadership and strong aspirations to ‘get it right’ for vulnerable children are key factors in their success. The vast majority of Cafcass staff at all levels consistently provide excellent quality services for children, their families and the family courts.
- Cafcass’ highly evolved and mature strategic relationships with its key family justice partners (Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Services (HMCTS), the Judiciary and the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) have led to creative and innovative services nationally and locally. The chief executive and the national service director are held in high regard. They work tirelessly, driving much needed development and reform to meet the increasing levels of demand.
- Cafcass practitioners’ effective and authoritative practice adds value and leads to better outcomes for the majority of children. In the vast majority of cases, family court advisers (FCAs) and children’s guardians provide the courts with cogent, well-balanced and analytical risk assessments. These help the courts to make child-centred and safe decisions.
- Strong, evidence-based and succinct reports minimise the need for experts. They also reduce delay and the need for further appointments. In a very small number of cases seen, delay in establishing children’s views and progressing cases quickly enough was linked to poor case planning.
- Most direct work is well planned, done at the child’s pace, and ensures that the child understands what is happening. Reports are enhanced by using the child’s own words, resulting in the powerful voice of children informing recommendations to the court. Inspectors observed some highly sensitive, knowledgeable work in relation to a wide range of diversity issues.
- Performance management is a key priority. A rigorous, strength-based performance framework supports the delivery of good and outstanding services nationally and locally. Key strengths and areas for development, identified accurately in Cafcass’s self-assessment, are used to inform both management understanding of the quality of practice and individual staff development. Senior managers have clear plans in place to help staff improve the consistency of performance learning reviews (PLRs) and case planning, and to ensure that relevant diversity issues are fully considered.
- Strong governance arrangements are firmly in place, augmented by a culture of professional accountability and respectful challenge at every level across the organisation. Cafcass has successfully implemented a model of proportionate2 working to address demand on 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.
- The national business centre (NBC) is exceptionally well-managed, effective and efficient. This means that Cafcass’s services for children benefit from the support of a coherent and expertly coordinated range of centralised systems. Business services and social work staff are skilled and committed.
The full report can be found on the Ofsted website.