Guardians’ service running ‘close to disaster’, say MPs in damning report

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.

The select committee of the Lord Chancellor’s Department report
says failings run right through Cafcass, at an organisational and
operational level, from its inception two years ago to its current
ability to safeguard vulnerable children and its capacity to
improve in the future.

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

The group of MPs is calling for heads to roll at board level and
for the National Audit Office to investigate whether millions of
pounds have been wasted. They also want 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 calls for Cafcass to “make
it clear” that it embraces the idea of a “mixed economy” workforce
of employed and self-employed guardians.

Speaking exclusively to Community Care, committee chairperson Alan
Beith said he had never encountered an organisation set up so

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

“Cafcass is there to protect vulnerable children at a critical time
in their lives. 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

The report says Cafcass’s IT system is inadequate and that the one
being developed now will be insufficient in the medium term.

Beith said the NAO should investigate evidence of “serious
mismanagement” of funds used to establish Cafcass, particularly in
the development of IT, use of consultants and management of senior

Cafcass chief executive Jonathan Tross welcomed the report but said
he was disappointed the committee had chosen to focus on the
organisation’s historical failings.

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