Councils ‘must get closer to Cafcass’

Local authorities and the Children and Family Court Advisory and
Support Service need to work closer together to improve the family
court system, a new report says.

An overview report of Cafcass by the court services inspectorate
MCSI found that one of its main weaknesses was the absence of
reliable links with social services departments. These could
address practice issues and improve services.

Generally, social workers reported a “serious deterioration” in
relations with Cafcass since it was formed in 2001. Links with
panel guardians and managers had been closer before this, when they
were based in local authorities.

Andrew Cozens, president of the Association of Directors of Social
Services, said the relationship between Cafcass and local
authorities had “fractured” in 2001, and this, in combination with
some of Cafcass’ initial problems, had led to a lack of stability.
But he added that he hoped Cafcass’s move to the Department for
Education and Skills would improve the situation.

MCSI inspectors praised Cafcass for reducing delays in allocating
guardians to cases, and for improving training and relaxing
“certain former, rigid stances” on employment contracts of
self-employed guardians. Also, only one in 10 public law case
reports were rated as unsatisfactory.

However, Alison Paddle, chair of guardians’ organisation Nagalro,
said there were few signs of a change in Cafcass’s culture. There
was still “huge suspicion and distrust” among self-employed
guardians, she added, but she hoped the recruiting of a new board
and chief executive would help to overcome this problem.

Cafcass said it would consider the report’s findings.

– Report from

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