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Cafcass publishes Annual Report and Accounts for 2021-22


The Cafcass Annual Report and Accounts for 2021-22 are now available here. The report provides the annual overview to Parliament, sponsor government departments and the public in respect of Cafcass’ performance and spend for the financial year. It sets out in detail, the work undertaken to support children, their families and carers, provides a review of progress in achieving strategic aims, the effectiveness of practice and improvement priorities.

The year from April 2021 to March 2022 proved to be as challenging and turbulent as the previous year, defined by continued disruptions for families and public services due to new Covid variants, lockdown restrictions, and for Cafcass record levels of open active children’s cases. In April 2021, there were 38,185 (61,096 children) open active children’s cases. That is 26.2% (c13,000 children) more than before March 2020 and represented the highest ever volume of open work in Cafcass’ history. A particular focus of the annual report this year is on the continued and significant delays for children and their families in family law proceedings.

Other important headlines in the Annual Report for 2021-22 include

  • Cafcass worked with c149,000 children in the reporting year, an increase of 2.5% (3,659 children) on 2020-21. Circa 46,500 were involved in public law proceedings and c102,500 in private law proceedings.
  • The separated parents’ information programme was facilitated for 20,405 parents – a 26%increase on the previous year.
  • Delayed proceedings continue to have an impact on children’s emotional and mental health. The significance of delay in making decisions about their lives is amplified by the conflict, harm and uncertainty children have already experienced in their lives.
  • By the end of 2021/22, the duration of Cafcass’ involvement in section 31 care and supervision proceedings in public law averaged 47 weeks and for private law proceedings it was 57 weeks in those children’s cases that proceeded beyond the first hearing. At the time of this press release, durations stand at 45 weeks on average for section 31 care and supervision applications and 60 weeks for private law. Where Cafcass are actively involved, around 15,000 children are in proceedings lasting for over 52 weeks.
  • Significant pressures remain across the family justice system. At the time of this press release, there remain c6,400 additional children in proceedings (a 12% increase in open active work) than in March 2020. In order to mitigate the risks to the effectiveness of practice that are associated with high volumes of open work and longer case durations, Cafcass activated its prioritisation protocol in six of 19 operational service areas and in collaboration with local partners managed to prevent prioritisation in another five operational service areas. Two operational service areas remain prioritised in respect of how work is managed in private law proceedings.
  • Cafcass achieved the expected level of performance in 3 of its 4 national performance indicators set by the Ministry of Justice. On average in public law section 31 care, allocations were made within 1.8 days of receipt, and on 31 March 2022 99.1% were substantively allocated to a children’s guardian. For private law on 31 March 2022 99.5 % of children’s cases were allocated to a family court adviser, but performance on filing times declined in the year with 96.9% of section 7 reports filed to the agreed time. Performance against these national measures masks significant regional and local variation driven by demand, open work volumes and local system capacity.
  • Although under significant pressures in the first year of the pandemic, an Ofsted ‘focused visit’ to Cafcass in April 2021 found “a sustained and improved focus on children, including holding them at the centre of practice”. Inspectors described “a passionate culture, centred around doing the right thing for children”. You can find out more about what Ofsted found here.
  • Cafcass continued to strengthen its social work practice throughout the year, with the delivery of its domestic abuse practice improvement plan, published in June 2021, and the launch of its relationship-based Together Practice Framework in September 2021. The framework prioritises listening, understanding, clear reasoning, respect, and integrity in Cafcass’ practice with children and families.
  • Celebrating the uniqueness of every child and family, so they get the right support is a continuing priority for Cafcass. During the year it published ambitious equality, diversity and inclusion objectives to strengthen its commitments, and developed a full Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy, launched in July 2022.

A version of the Annual Report and Accounts for children and young people will soon be available on the Cafcass website. We thank the Family Justice Young People’s Board (FJYPB) who helped with both the design and content of this report in addition to partnering with us and supporting the improvement priorities for Cafcass throughout the year.

Jacky Tiotto, Chief Executive and Sally Cheshire CBE, Board Chair, said:

“The Annual Report and Accounts for 2021-22 pays tribute to all of our colleagues at Cafcass who continue to dedicate themselves to serve the best interests of every child and family who come to us. We thank everyone – those at Cafcass and all who work across the Family Justice system. The work we do together is life changing and long lasting for children. Holding the responsibility to protect children in proceedings is a privilege that we all have each and every day that we come to work.

Our work with children is complex and made more so by the pressures around us - not least those that endure from the pandemic. The commitment we see with our partners, in our daily practice, from our practice leaders and in government is inspiring and continues to provide the energy we need to focus on constant improvement for children.

In the year that is already upon us, we must continue to prioritise reducing delay for children in proceedings and we must do this as a united national system. We know this is a priority for Ministers, the Judiciary and local authorities and so look forward to our next steps together. We intend that Cafcass continues to prioritise sharing its recommendations with children and families so that they can understand what is happening to them, that they can clearly see our thinking and reasoning and be given the opportunity to express their views about our work with them.

While we are proud of the feedback we received from Ofsted in April last year following their focused visit, we continue to invest in and prioritise further improvement so that we consistently offer an outstanding service to all children, their families and carers.