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Cafcass is taking steps to improve its practice in public family law proceedings


Cafcass is taking steps forward designed to improve its practice when representing children in public family law court cases in England. This includes developing quality standards in public law practice, scoping practice and performance in local areas and working in partnership with Essex County Council to offer collaborative workshops designed to help Cafcass work more effectively with local authority social workers.

This programme of work follows the publication in March 2021 of the final report of the Public Law Working Group. The report included several recommendations for non-legislative reform of public family law proceedings. Since its publication, Cafcass has been using the recommendations of the report to help inform improvement of its own public law practice. This has involved:

  • Developing practice quality standards for public law work

Cafcass has developed practice quality standards for its public law practice based on the findings from audit, learning reviews and feedback. They are produced following extensive collaboration with practice staff and with external partners. The result is a set of practice quality standards to be used by its Family Court Advisers (FCAs) and by supervisors in assessing the quality of practice.

The standards show how Cafcass puts its policies into action and are designed to be of benefit to FCAs and the young people and families with whom they work. The standards set out what children, families and partners can expect of Cafcass. Within Cafcass, they provide a focus for reflective supervision, case audits, practice observations and practice and learning reviews. Detailed guidance on how FCAs should apply the standards is being developed.

  • Improving how local authority social workers and public law practitioners at Cafcass work together

In October and November 2021, with agreement from the Association of Children’s Directors (ADCS), Cafcass jointly delivered with Essex County Council, two and a half day workshops in the Eastern region for both local authority social workers and public law practitioners at Cafcass. The workshops were designed to improve the way in which local authority social workers and Cafcass FCAs work together for the benefit of the children, families and other parties involved in public law proceedings.

Feedback from the workshops was very positive and the plan is now to offer these workshops throughout the country so that all public law practitioners and local authority social workers have the opportunity to participate later this year.

  • Scoping the practice and performance in local areas as the basis for discussion between partners

Cafcass has been using its rich data set to identify differences in practice and performance in local areas as the basis for self-evaluation, bi-lateral discussions with partners and focused discussions at local Family Justice Boards. The aim of this programme of work is to identify the local challenges in implementing the recommendations of the President’s Public Law Working Group and a shared approach to overcoming those challenges. The scoping work includes a focus on the causes of delay, the impact of delay for the child and what can be done to bring about closure for the child.

The National Director of Operations for Cafcass, Jack Cordery said:

“This programme of self-assessment and the work to further improve the quality and impact of our practice in public law proceedings are an important step forward. They are based on what we find in our own audits and from feedback. They will help us to deliver improvements to the way we work with our partners to safeguard the welfare of children. We look forward to working evermore closely with our partners in the family justice system to help ensure that the recommendations in the Public Law Working Group’s report are fully implemented to the benefit of children.”