Cafcass has been commended by Ofsted after an inspection revealed “outstanding” improvements in the services it provides to children and families in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. It follows a history of long delays in the area and an 80% increase in demand for public law work over the past two years.
After the unannounced inspection last month, the watchdog found all children in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire now receive a prompt service from the family courts body.
Inspectors rated the team’s progress as good overall, noting an outstanding performance against key indicators. They found adapted ways of proportionate working had allowed guardians to take on children’s cases earlier and provide a timelier service.
It follows an inadequate rating for the East Midlands service area in 2009 and is the second good inspection result Cafcass has achieved recently. In December, the service provided to children in North and South Tyneside’s was also rated good.
“As the report points out, adapting our service and working proportionately according to the needs of each child’s case has been key in enabling us help the many more children now being referred to us,” said Cafcass chief executive Anthony Douglas.
“Ofsted also found ‘clear and effective’ leadership in place and ‘good’ liaison with our partners in the courts and the local authorities – both of which will provide the building blocks from which to improve even further.”
Neville Hall, head of service for the area, said: “In conjunction with our partners in the judiciary we’ve agreed proportionate ways of working which have helped us to provide a service to the many more children referred to us.
“In care cases this includes producing shorter and more focused position statements at key points in the case; ensuring that practitioners’ attendance at meetings and hearings is limited to those where they can really add value and contribute; and ensuring that there is role clarity – so that it’s the local authority that completes the initial assessment and we’re not duplicating what are rightfully local authority roles.
“In private law cases, our focus is also very much on the needs of the child, rather than the parental dispute. In cases where there are welfare concerns it’s necessary to complete a full assessment of the child’s circumstances but in many others we’re finding that focused reports on the impact of the dispute on the child or on their wishes and feelings helps lead to more timely and child-focused court decisions.”
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