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Ofsted praises improvement at Cafcass against backdrop of rising demand

Cafcass has been judged by Ofsted as being outstanding having been on an improvement journey since it was rated inadequate in 2009.

Ofsted praised the organisation for its continuous improvement against a backdrop of rising demand. There were 14,599 care applications made in 2016-17 compared to 10,620 in 2013-14. Since Cafcass’ last Ofsted inspection in 2014, when the organisation was rated ‘Good’, demand has increased significantly. The latest data (April 2017 – February 2018) shows a 25.9% rise in new cases compared with the same period for 2014/15, equating to 11,472 more cases.

Cafcass was judged as inadequate in 2009 and the Public Accounts Committee said the organisation was ‘not fit for purpose’ in 2010. In 2014 Cafcass was rated ‘good’ in in the latest 2018 report has been judged as ‘outstanding’.

Cafcass chief executive Anthony Douglas said: “As the largest employer of social workers in the country, being judged as ‘outstanding’ shows just what social workers can achieve. I am proud of all of our staff and all that they do, particularly our shared values about the importance of helping children and young people get to a better place in their lives.”

The Ofsted inspection said exceptional, aspirational corporate and operational leaders work relentlessly to ensure that children and their families benefit from good or outstanding services. Leaders have worked diligently to develop and support a culture of continuous learning and improvement, it added.

Ofsted said Cafcass was graded outstanding because the vast majority of Cafcass staff at all levels consistently provide excellent quality services for children, their families and the family courts

Inspectors noted:

  • Most direct work is well planned, done at the child’s pace, and ensures that the child understands what is happening.
  • Cafcass practitioners’ effective and authoritative practice adds value and leads to better outcomes for the majority of children.
  • Performance management is a key priority.
  • 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.
  • Strong governance arrangements are firmly in place, augmented by a culture of professional accountability and respectful challenge at every level across the organisation.
  • The national business centre (NBC) is exceptionally well-managed, effective and efficient meaning 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 quality and effectiveness of Cafcass private and public law practice with families were both rated ‘good’. The leadership and governance of the national organisation and the leadership and management of local services were rated ‘outstanding’ and overall the service was given an ‘outstanding’ rating.

Development work should include further improvement in the quality of recording in case plans and contact logs to ensure that management direction is explicit and prioritised. Cafcass should also strengthen the consistency of management recording in performance and learning reviews (PLRs) to ensure that areas for development are clearly articulated and evaluated.

Furthermore, the organisation should fully implement the system to monitor the quality of work when practitioners step down from self-regulating their own work and ensure that reports to court consistently explain when issues of diversity are not relevant to the application.

Ofsted inspection of Cafcass


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