Ofsted is to introduce a new approach to inspecting the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service.
Shorter inspections will be carried out every three years using a ‘whole-system’ approach, with more contact in between each inspection. This fresh approach will bring Cafcass in line with Ofsted’s other inspections of children’s social care.
Yvette Stanley, Ofsted’s National Director for Regulation and Social Care, said: “Children involved in the family justice system deserve the highest standard of care and support during what is often a distressing time. Our new approach to inspecting Cafcass is proportionate yet rigorous, providing more frequent scrutiny of its work with families and a greater focus on children’s experiences.”
Publishing the outcome of its consultation into the future of Cafcass from 2021, which received more than 300 responses and where the majority of respondents – who were from a mix of those working with children and families in the family courts, parents and family members - agreed broadly with the proposals, Ofsted announced that a three-yearly national judgement inspection would be carried out.
At the three-yearly inspection, Ofsted will judge the quality and effectiveness of Cafcass’s private law and public law practice, and the impact leaders have on practice with children and families. If Cafcass is judged to be inadequate, Ofsted will carry out monitoring visits to make sure improvements are made.
There will also be focused visits between judgement inspections, looking at a specific area of service/cohort of children, annual sharing of a self-evaluation of frontline practice in both public and private law and an annual engagement meeting between Ofsted and the Cafcass chief executive and senior leadership team.
The new approach will take effect from 1 April 2021. Ofsted will begin with a focused visit of Cafcass as part of a phased return to routine social care inspection.
The visit will provide assurance about the quality and impact of Cafcass’s work with families, while taking ongoing COVID-19 restrictions into account.
Ofsted will review the effectiveness of the new approach during the early stages of rollout.