Anthony Douglas pledges Cafcass will improve on private law

Cafcass chief executive Anthony Douglas has hit back after Ofsted published its third damning verdict this year on the family court body’s private law practice.

Douglas said the findings predated Cafcass’s generous government grant settlement this year and predicted that private law would bounce back at the next inspections.

The inspection of the experience of Cafcass service users in South Yorkshire rated private law practice as “inadequate” and public law “adequate”, the bottom two of four gradings.

The result from the inspection in February matches the finding from a report in May on the South East region, while a report on theEast Midlands in February found services overall were inadequate.

box on south yorkshire cafcass


Douglas said “at the very least” he wanted private law to be graded as “adequate” in any future inspection, but he added: “We need to be good to outstanding in all parts of our work. You can’t have full public confidence without that.”

The South Yorkshire repeated many of the previous two reports’ criticisms of private law: inadequate assessment of domestic violence and its impact on children significant delays in case allocation, and inadequate case recording and management.

Ofsted said some of these issues, for instance on domestic violence, had been identified as far back as 2005.

Addresss the failings

Douglas said Cafcass would address the failings through a significant increase in spending on training and a new national practice and performance assessment system, launched this autumn.

Under this, practitioners’ work will be graded according to standards currently being agreed between Ofsted and Cafcass, with indivdually tailored training programmes put in place to correct deficits.

Paul Bishop, Cafcass representative for trade union Napo, welcomed the system, saying it would demonstrate to Ofsted the level of good practice in the organisation. But he said it should not be continued “year after year”, with investment instead switched to direct work with children. He added that the delays identified by Ofsted required more frontline staff.

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