Ofsted to launch new “effective and proportionate” approach to inspecting Cafcass after staffing concerns

Ofsted will launch a “new, more effective and proportionate approach” to inspecting Cafcass, it has been announced.

The reforms come after reports that the public body, known as the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, had been forced to abandon some cases because of mounting workloads.

Representing children in family court cases across England, Cafcass advises the family courts about what is safe for children and in their best interests.

However, a recent consultation suggested that the existing rigorous inspection process could be improved to maintain a high level of scrutiny, while alleviating the burden on the care provider.

According to Ofsted, the inspectorate will use a “whole-system” approach of shorter inspections every three years with more regular visits in between.

This will “build a better picture of Cafcass’s practice” and bring the department into line with “Ofsted’s other inspections of children’s social care”, the regulator said.

The new approach will include:

  • a three-yearly national judgement inspection
  • focused visits between judgement inspections, looking at a specific area of service/cohort of children
  • annual sharing of a self-evaluation of frontline practice in both public and private law; and
  • an annual engagement meeting between Ofsted and the Cafcass chief executive and senior leadership team.

Commenting on the changes, Yvette Stanley, Ofsted’s National Director for Regulation and Social Care, said: “Children involved in the family justice system deserve the highest standard of care and support during what is often a distressing time.

“Our new approach to inspecting Cafcass is proportionate yet rigorous, providing more frequent scrutiny of its work with families and a greater focus on children’s experiences. My thanks to everyone who gave us their views.”

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