CAFCASS: Delays and failure

The Times reports today on the Ofsted inspection of Cafcass operations in Kent, Surrey and Sussex (the title of the report erroneously refers to 'social workers', rather than 'Cafcass officers'). It doesn't make good reading. Ofsted "found a waiting list of 150 cases, delays of six months for some families, inadequate assessments of the impact of domestic violence in most cases and a failure to refer cases to local authorities where there were concerns for the child’s welfare." I can certainly attest to some of this, especially the delays. I don't, however, blame the officers involved. I agree with Harry Fletcher of the National Association of Probation Officers, who is quoted in the report as saying: “Cafcass was put together too hastily. It has been underfunded since the outset. There are not enough staff and there are too many cases, resulting in unacceptable delays.” I also note that the report pointedly mentions that the chief executive of Cafcass, Anthony Douglas, earns £147,000 a year.

Quite what such a damning report will do for the morale of overstretched Cafcass officers, one can only speculate.


  1. I'm glad to see the media have woken up to this report a week after it came out.

    Some years ago Fathers 4 Justice changed its previously aggressive approach to CAFCASS to try to talk to them and work with them. It probably lost us members and it has not been an entirely successful policy. We still have meetings and exchange views with senior managers - and occasionally with Douglas himself.

    My personal view, having supported this policy and attended these meetings, is that CAFCASS does not have the capacity to change or improve. I say that reluctantly and with some regret, and I have come to like and respect some of the CAFCASS staff, including Anthony Douglas. Nevertheless, it is clear that the Ofsted reports tell the same story as the HMICA reports before them, and that there is no sign of significant progress.

    I would suggest leaving CAFCASS to handle public law cases, and take them off private law cases entirely. The question then is what you put in its place, which is why until now I was in favour of giving CAFCASS the benefit of the doubt. I have no answer to this, but am certain CAFCASS cannot be allowed to handle these cases any longer.

  2. Whether you stick with CAFCASS or replace it, substantially greater funding is surely needed.

  3. I can't think of any government agency which has overcome its problems simply by having more money thrown at them. Any taxpayer-funded organisation will always argue for more funding; I don't think that in the case of CAFCASS this is the main problem, and they could do much more to target funding where it is needed. It is not necessarily true, for example, that divorcees suddenly become violent, and CAFCASS could do much more to distinguish between children at risk and those not at risk.

  4. Yes, but one of the main problems surely is that there just aren't enough CAFCASS officers - only extra funding will remedy that.

  5. Coventry CAFCASS are now failing to complete reports within their own estimates of 20 weeks - this isn't far shy of the six months mentioned for the South East. Yet it's routine. The effect on children is appalling.

  6. Great. So much for the 'no delay' principle!

  7. I have to say that usually I find the media are overly negative about such matters and when you refer to the reports the positives have been overlooked, but that isn't really true in this case. The report is pretty damning.

    Particularly worrying for me was the absence of clearly stated criteria, validated by research, for officers to use when observing children and parents. Not surprising then that some reports were found to contain unsubstantiated opinions and irrelevancies.

  8. Yes, I have come across some of these things in reports. There is obviously no excuse, but one wonders how much of this is down to the pressure upon CAFCASS officers, due to lack of resources.

  9. I remain unconvinced that extra funding would buy anything other than more of the same. The Ofsted and HMICA reports do not identify funding as a primary problem.

    One of the main failures, which F4J have banged on about for years, is that there is no monitoring of outcomes. A 2003 parliamentary inquiry commented: ‘In the absence of data, the identification of what might be best for any particular child in any particular case is fraught with difficulty.’

    Mike Stein of York University said that every child thus becomes 'the subject of an uncontrolled experiment'.

    One could add the failure to introduce national guidance on standards, an obsession with a feminist line on domestic violence, the poor quality of report writing, the inability of managers to know what their staff are up to, missed appraisal targets, and recommendations which take no account of evidence.

    These are failures of culture and management, not funding. Delenda est CAFCASS.

  10. cafcass profess their way of dealing with family problems is in the best interests of the "children" but in reality they are so tied up with increasing caseloads that the only way to impress their professionalism and efficiency to the government is to go with what the mother wants. And ignore the "fathers" and "children"


Post a comment

Thank you for taking the time to comment on this post. Constructive comments are always welcome, even if they do not coincide with my views! Please note, however, that comments will be removed or not published if I consider that:
* They are not relevant to the subject of this post; or
* They are (or are possibly) defamatory; or
* They breach court reporting rules; or
* They contain derogatory, abusive or threatening language; or
* They contain 'spam' advertisements (including links to any commercial websites).
Please also note that I am unable to give advice.