Plan to improve Cafcass practice supervision ‘threatened by job cuts’

Improving practice and supervision will be at the heart of fundamental reforms to the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service published next month, its chief executive has said.

Anthony Douglas told Community Care that Cafcass, which was set up in 2001, needed to shift its focus from organisational development to raising practice standards, following a number of critical inspection reports.

“We do have some recent inspections that show gaps in practice that we’ve got to bridge.”

Most recently, a courts inspectorate report heavily criticised front-line practice in private law cases, saying children were being put in danger by sub-standard assessments that did not adequately address domestic violence risks.

Douglas said that Cafcass would look to “substantially” reduce current supervision ratios of up to 20 practitioners to one front-line manager. He said comparable organisations had eight but admitted this would be unrealistic.

However, this proposal was met with scepticism by Sian Griffiths, national vice-chair at family courts union Napo, who said Cafcass was planning management redundancies as part of a restructure.

She said: “We would share the concern that there has been an inadequate focus on developing good practice. But the management can’t afford to lose that many posts if we want to spend more time improving frontline practice.”

Griffiths also warned that practitioners and managers would not have the time or resources to make the improvements, given that Cafcass’s budget has been frozen since April 2004.

Douglas confirmed any job losses would be “above front-line worker level” and would take place between now and 2010 to allow for natural wastage.

National practice standards

  • Every practitioner will undergo a four-day training programme in domestic violence between now and 2010.
  • Ambition to have all practitioners receive specialist post-qualifying training.

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    Mithran Samuel

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