MPs say Cafcass close to disaster

The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service has
been operating “close to disaster”, the parliamentary
inquiry into the organisation’s performance has concluded,
writes Derren Hayes.

In what amounts to the most damning indictment of the service so
far, a select committee of the Lord Chancellor’s department
report said failings run right through Cafcass, at an
organisational and operational level, from its inception two years

Most importantly, the report said that the organisation’s
culture is one that puts its own corporate priorities before the
interests of children and young people.

The group of MPs called for heads to roll at board level and for
the National Audit Office to investigate whether millions of pounds
of funds have been wasted. They also recommended urgent action to
develop a robust IT case management system, tackle workforce
issues, and improve training and performance management.

In a move that vindicates the stance of many self-employed
children’s guardians, the committee also called for Cafcass
to “make it clear” that it embraces the concept of a
“mixed economy” workforce of employed and self-employed

Speaking exclusively to ‘Community Care’, Alan Beith,
chairperson of the committee, said he had never come across an
organisation set up so inadequately.

Beith said Cafcass was “miles away” from allocating
guardians to children within 48 hours – the norm prior to
Cafcass – and is unconvinced it will be able do so in the
future “without significant recruitment”.

“Cafcass is there to protect vulnerable children at a
critical time in their lives, and delay in appointing guardians is
a significant failure for them and has resulted in some areas
receiving an inferior service,” he said. “Its first two
years have been close to disaster.”

The report said Cafcass’ existing IT system is inadequate,
and that a new one being developed will be insufficient in the

Beith said there was evidence of “serious
mismanagement” of funds used to establish Cafcass,
particularly in the development of IT, use of consultants, and
management of senior staff, which the NAO needed to

Cafcass chief executive Jonathan Tross welcomed the report, but
said he was disappointed the committee chose to focus on its
historical failings.

Report available here

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.