The government has accepted calls by a select committee of the
former Lord Chancellor’s department to fundamentally review
board membership of the Children and Family Court Advisory and
Support Service, writes Clare Jerrom.
The announcement follows the resignation of Anthony Hewson this
month as chairperson of the Cafcass Board, after three years in the
The board was heavily criticised in the committee’s report
into the organisation’s performance published in July. The
committee recommended changes to the board because it had failed to
properly scrutinise management performance.
In its response this week, the government said the review would
be carried out promptly and would “then consider what steps
are necessary, if any, to help the board work most
The Cafcass board responded: “More has been achieved than
we have been given credit for, but there remain challenging issues
for Cafcass to address”.
The organisation acknowledged that it was currently unable to
allocate cases as speedily as it would like in all areas, but
stressed that action was being taken, including joint work with the
Department for Constitutional Affairs, the Courts Service, social
services and the judiciary to address overall delays in the
Issues such as a lack of court sitting time, staffing problems
in local authorities and the overall management of cases within the
court system all contributed to wider delays, the board said.
It warned: “The problem is clear, without an adequate
budget, we cannot reduce delays and improve the basic quality of
Meanwhile, Rob Thomas, chairperson of the National Association
of Probation Officers told its annual conference that Cafcass is
still experiencing “real problems”.
Accessing information, the lack of a national training strategy
for staff and no systematic induction programme are all major
problems. In certain areas staff had been instructed to take on 25
per cent more work, he added.
Guardians representative body NAGALRO accused the government and
Cafcass of “papering over the cracks” in their response to the
committee’s report. It said there were continuing delays across the
country in allocating guardians to children.