Cafcass is a non-departmental public body with statutory functions to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in court proceedings; give advice to the courts; ensure children are represented in the courts and provide information, advice and support for children and their families in court proceedings.
Over the last 4 years, Ofsted has inspected practice in each of Cafcass’ individual services areas. From 2013, Ofsted proposes to conduct an annual inspection of Cafcass as a national organisation, supported by a detailed examination of practice in up to 6 local service areas.
By carrying out an annual single inspection, Ofsted will capture evidence both at local level and across nationally delivered functions. The greatest weight will be given to the quality of work at local level in the key statutory functions of making recommendations and providing advice to the family courts on how best to safeguard and promote the welfare of children subject to proceedings.
The inspection will be unannounced and will take place over two weeks.
The changes proposed will reflect Cafcass’ restructure from 21 to 17 service areas with an increased centralisation of national functions, and is based on Cafcass’ improved performance.
Ofsted’s Deputy Chief Inspector, John Goldup said:
Over the last 4 years, Ofsted has reported in detail on Cafcass’ performance across the country, and it is encouraging that service delivery has improved significantly over that time. Our new, more streamlined inspection framework will focus on ensuring that improvement is sustained at the national strategic level and on the ground.
We want inspection to make sure that the best possible outcomes are achieved for children who are subject to family court proceedings, often at a very difficult point in their young lives. We welcome the widest possible range of responses to this consultation from anyone who has an interest in or expertise relating to the Cafcass role in the family court, including critically of course parents, children and young people.
The consultation proposes that judgements will be made on:
- overall effectiveness, including areas for development
- the effectiveness with which Cafcass safeguards and promotes the welfare of children
- the quality of practice
- leadership and governance
The consultation is open until 12 March with new inspection arrangements coming into effect in September 2013.
Notes to editors
Read the consultation document for the Arrangements for the inspection of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass).
The Education and Inspections Act 2006 Section 143 states that Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector must:
- inspect the performance of Cafcass functions
- make a written report
- send copies of the report to the Secretary of State and to Cafcass
- arrange for the report to be published
Cafcass is unique within Ofsted’s remit as it is a national organisation. Since April 2009, Cafcass has been inspected through a 4-year programme of all its service areas, originally 21 areas, now restructured into 17 service areas. The current programme of inspection will complete by the end of March 2013.
Cafcass is operating in a dynamic and changing environment. The creation of the Family Justice Board following the outcome of the Family Justice Review, in England and Wales, will see the future role of Cafcass in the family justice system change or evolve.