Cafcass seeks to reduce pressure on services following Baby P

Anthony Douglas

Family courts body Cafcass is seeking to reduce pressure on its services caused by the surge in care applications since the Baby P trial.

Cafcass chief executive Anthony Douglas told Community Care that he was in talks with top judges over prioritising children at home higher than those who are safe in foster care.

Priorities review

“There is no easy categorisation, but cases where children are still living in situations of potential imminent harm should have the highest priority,” Douglas said. 

“Cafcass heads of service are discussing local priorities with leading judges, and I am working with senior judges nationally to put together a priority framework so that the most important work on both public and private law cases is carried out for the remainder of the financial year.”

Critical inspections

Douglas said this remained the major challenge facing the organisation, which has been reprimanded by Ofsted in a series of recent inspection reports.

“Rising demand in public law cases increases the amount of time that has to go into new work and not into the reflective work that is part of our improvement programme,” he said.

Last week (23 July) Ofsted published its review on progress made in the Cafcass South Yorkshire service after a damning inspection result last year. The review showed a mixed picture, with the service scoring equal ratings of “inadequate” and “satisfactory” and one “good” rating against the watchdog’s recommendations.

Earlier this month the Far South West Service was rated inadequate, the third such judgement this year for Cafcass, including the services at Birmingham and the Black Country, Durham and Teesside.

Insufficient progress

Douglas admitted the judgements showed the service was “not improving fast enough” in some regions. “We know we do need to improve on several aspects of our practice,” he said.

However, he said the organisation was now receiving satisfactory ratings on safeguarding and was much stronger on performance management. “We need to keep going in a tough climate,” he said. “We expect our improvement programme to lead to a more reliably consistent good standard.”

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