The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) should be scrapped and the roles of local safeguarding children boards (LSCBs) and the Youth Justice Board watered down in order to reduce bureaucracy, a government adviser has suggested.
In a letter shown to Community Care, Andrew Povey, a government adviser on education and children’s services and the leader of Surrey County Council, responded to a government call for councils to identify areas where red-tape could be cut.
One of his more controversial suggestions was that Cafcass be “disbanded and its responsibilities transferred to the local authority”.
He told ministers the move would help “ensure a better service to children and parents; reduce double handling and help to limit conflict and unnecessary confusion at a challenging time.”
“This would also help with staff retention and workforce development for social workers working with children and young people, which you will be well aware is a challenge,” he wrote.
However, a spokesperson for Cafcass said its guardians played an invaluable role in giving vulnerable children an independent voice in complex family court cases.
“Despite the pressures that they, and all other agencies in the family justice system are under, our staff have worked tirelessly to ensure we’re working with more children than ever before.
“We are determined to continue to improve our service and are working with local authorities, the courts and other stakeholders up and down the country to jointly improve the service that we all provide to children and their families.”
Povey also questioned the current operation of LSCBs and the YJB. Both had a “mountain of guidance that adds little to the eventual outcomes for children and young people,” he wrote.
His wide-ranging suggestions also included a call to reduce the monitoring burden on local authorities from organisations such as Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission.
“While good quality management is essential, staff find themselves checking data and having to correct Ofsted’s mistakes. This would suggest quality management is less of a challenge in local authorities than in arms-length agencies.”
Povey also stated there was an opportunity for adults afeguarding boards to be streamlined and criticised the CQC for being “too input-focused”.