Front-line social work practice in private law family proceedings will have to undergo a “culture change” if children are to be properly served, the head of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service has admitted.
Anthony Douglas, speaking after a report slammed front-line family court advisers’ practice in private law, conceded that Cafcass faced “real challenges” in delivering a consistent service across the country.
In its critical report, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Court Administration warned that children involved in contact and residence cases were being put in potential danger by sub-standard assessments that did not adequately address the risk of domestic violence.
Front-line practice “had not improved” since a previous HMICA report last autumn, which found most Cafcass practitioners did not “sufficiently understand” the nature of domestic violence.
Douglas said some of the findings made for “uncomfortable reading”. But improving family court advisers’ assessments of domestic violence was one of the organisation’s top priorities, he added.
But he said Cafcass was undertaking a “huge” training programme based on new procedures and policies recommended by HMICA.
The report also found that Cafcass had not remedied previous concerns over inconsistency of practice and said family court advisers used interview techniques according to personal preference rather than a standardised model.
Douglas said practice managers were being put in place to help enforce new standards, which the service aims to have implemented across England by 2009.
Alison Paddle, chair of family court workers’ association Nagalro, said introducing more managers would not necessarily solve problems and Cafcass must provide more advanced training.
● Inadequate risk assessments.
● Inconsistencies in interviews and assessments.
● Varied service across the country.
● Little evidence of sharing best practice.
● Poor management.
● New guidelines need to be implemented.
● Private Law Front-line Practice