Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers
David Bell, Permanent
Secretary, Department of Education and Anthony Douglas,
Chief Executive, CAFCASS, gave evidence.
Tuesday 7 September 2010
Q40 Chair: Mr Bell,
I just want to ask you this question, though, because we can continue
to have an argument about the impact of Baby P, but what is also
clear from the report is that cases are remaining open for much
longer; there has been a fantastic increase. Now, I don't know
whether data was collected to look at that. What has the Department
done, as well as the organisation, to ensure that there is proper
capability within CAFCASS to deal with the fact that cases do
remain open longer?
David Bell: The
whole point of the change programme that CAFCASS has taken on,
which has been funded by the Department, is to deal with that
and a whole range of other aspects.
Chair: And are you confident
that they can?
David Bell: I am
confident that CAFCASS can, in those circumstances, but perhaps
on this specific issue, Mr Douglas, Madam Chairman, may want to
If I may Madam Chairman, just as the Permanent Secretary said,
we have had 766 care applications in August, as of one week ago;
that is compared to 687 in last August. The increases we are looking
at are of the scale of about 30% to 35%. For all of the planners
in the Department, the Ministry of Justice, its predecessor organisations,
the worst scenario planning was on 3% to 4% increases, because
that's what it had been for a decade.
Q41 Chair: Can you
answer about cases remaining open for longer?
I'm trying to say simply say what has happened because it has
come up as a questionif I can beg your indulgence. There
has been a lot of research through the Local Government Association
Q42 Chair: The question
that I asked is that there is a 40% increase in the length of
time in which cases now remain open. That impacts on your work.
Have you got proper systems in place now and capability to deal
with that trend? It's a trend; it's not God suddenly hitting us.
If you look at the stuff, it's absolutely a trend over time.
Much more than we had; had we not, we would not have been able
to absorb 2,500 more cases; we would not have reduced the unallocated
figure to 150. The way we're working is through a series of local
agreements, controlled by judges, within existing legislation,
to work more proportionately on cases.
Q43 Chair: You're
doing less work on cases as your way of coping?
We've had what could be called "mission creep" over
the years, from the time of the Children Act, when a case took
12 weeks to go through the courts, to now when it takes 46 weeks
in South Yorkshire and 65 weeks in London. So that expansion of
work is becoming, has become, unaffordable and unsustainable.
So we are all having to look at ways of working that make a difference;
the main way we're working is to get in as early as possible to
cases and then to particularly focus on the local authority assessments,
the threshold for care and their outline care plan and to, then,
cease the involvement with the permission and authority of the
Q44 Chair: You're
doing fewer section 7 reports?
Well, in private law, that has been a hugely successful programme.
The private law system is impacted
Q45 Chair: Cut by
Well, we've absorbed 16% more work and there are more cases closing
in private law than
Q46 Chair: How many
fewer section 7 reports, proportionally?
Percentage-wise, we're now down
to only 10% in the best areas of applications to courts and 40%
in the worst areas. And we have the new model of single issue
reporting, which is also controlling costs and time. So the president's
guidance on private law has been hugely successful. Public law
work is much more complicated to get right. And, in relation to
your question, of all the indicators, not just for us, but everybody
else, they remain a problem; after previous tragedies like Victoria
Climbié, the system reverted back to its underlying trends
after three to six months; this has now been going on for 18 months.
It is not so much a blip, but an underlying trend. In all parts
of the country, apart from two or three, there are two or three
times the number of new cases as of cases being closed, so that
isn't just a CAFCASS problem; it's a whole system problem.
Q47 Chair: The cases
remain open because the people aren't doing the work, I would
They are being open because often we are asked to do more work,
sometimes because of the complexity.
Q48 Chair: To be
honest, given the paucity of data, you don't know whether they're
more complicated, you're being asked to do more work, or actually
because you're not doing the work, and therefore they remain open
and they create work. So you may be in a terrible downward spiral
because the inefficiency of the organisation keeps cases open
and therefore requires more work. With the data that we've gotbecause
you're so bad at collecting dataI don't think either of
you can with your hand on your heart say, "Actually, it's
all to do with the complexity of the cases. No, it's nothing to
do with the inefficiency of the organisation."
As with every complex issue, Madam Chairman, we have some inefficiencies
still to get to grips with. Many cases are complex; we're often
asked to stay in them, not just by courts but sometimes by solicitors.
Chair: I don't believe
it's down to increasing complexity of cases. I believe it is also
to do with the inefficiency of the organisation.
Q49 Joseph Johnson:
Okay, I just wanted to address some questions of governance within
CAFCASS and the Department for Education. In the private sector,
this litany of failure against key performance indicators and
the general underperformance of CAFCASS would have led to management
change. Mr Douglas has been in the post since 2004, during which
time you've been paid, as Stephen mentioned a second ago, some
pretty substantial sums by any standard: £168,000 salary,
including performance pay in 2008-09; £157,000 in 2009-10;
and you have accrued a bonus pot of £1.7 million, if this
is correctCETV, cash equivalent and transferrable value.
I think that is the bonus potpension potthat you've
accrued. Those are pretty chunky numbers. I support exceptional
pay for exceptional performance, but, in your words, would you
say that you have delivered exceptional performance to warrant
that level of pay?
I would, relative to the salaries for directors of children's
services, chief executives, in my line of work. Now, there are
changes afoot, as you well know, and that may change in the future;
there is always an option for Minsters or Permanent Secretaries
to change the management at the top of the organisation. What
I have achieved, I think, has been to put in place a viable and
sustainable organisation which, at the point the Chair was involved,
was not there.
Now, we've had lots of achievements and we've made
lots of mistakes. We're still a young organisation. We may or
may not continue with our present remit. I suspect that will change
because you have seen the pressures and, of course, everything
is changing at the moment. I do think, to answer your question
bluntly, whilst of course others put a value in terms of my salary,
I don't either set it or award myself any benefits. I do think,
as has been said by many people, it is a pretty tough job and
one that I do believe needs stability at the top of the organisation.
We've made huge numbers of changes.
Q50 Joseph Johnson: You've
had a lot of stability: 2004you are getting on; you're
entering your seventh year in this organisation. It doesn't look
from the reading of it, despite the comments from the Permanent
Secretary that things have been improving in recent months, as
though you're making a dramatic impact on it. I wonder, turning
to the Permanent Secretary, whether the senior management of this
organisation still commands your confidence?
David Bell: Yes,
is the answer to that question. It is also fair to repeat the
point that Mr Douglas is not responsible for setting the
salary; that is a decision that is made ultimately by the Department
and I believe that the salary set, at that time, was appropriate
and, to some extent, probably slightly under the market rate,
as Mr Douglas said, for directors of children's services. Who
knows what the future will bring? But this is a very tough and
complicated job, and I don't underestimate at all the kind of
pressure that has been there. Mr Douglas and I would have
both, I'm sure, wanted a kind of magic, quick, corporate turnaround
of this organisation; it was, frankly, not susceptible to that
kind of overnight transformation. Actually, it is the sort of
organisation, given the nature of it and its history, that was
going to take time to improve. So the answer is, yes, I do have
confidence in Mr Douglas, and I have to say I have even greater
confidence now that we have with CAFCASS a transformation programme
which will bring, I'm absolutely certain, the next change and
improvement within the organisation.
Chair: Right, I've got
a list of peopleIan, Richard, Stephen, and Anne.
Q51 Ian Swales: I
would just like to talk again about key performance indicators.
We've heard that the list has been changing. Are you satisfied
nowand this is particularly from the Department's point
of viewthat you have got a list that will stand year by
year, and therefore can be monitored continually? Is it sufficiently
long? And above all, are the targets that are within it for achievement
those that would describe a world-class service? I often say to
people, "If one is making parachutes, what is the right failure
rate in terms of manufacturing?" It's not an entirely flippant
comment because we are obviously, sadly, talking about matters
of life and death sometimes in this area. I would like to hear
you describe how challenging and aspirational the key performance
David Bell: Well,
just distinguishing those different parts of your question, if
I may, Mr Swales. I think the number we've gotthe seven
we've gotnow cover the areas that are appropriate to cover.
It's always a judgment call: should we have 10; should we have
five; or whatever? I do think they do cover the key areas, covering
the allocations of public and private law cases, safeguarding
and the use of engagement, and so on.
In relation to what should the benchmark be, I guess,
in any organisation you would like to think you would have a 100%
achievement of any target. I think it does depend, frankly, on
the business that you're in. So in some businesses you can't really
avoid any failurethe example you gave is a good oneothers,
I think you have a very high target, but you do recognise that
getting to a 100% may not be appropriate. So, to give you a very
specific example, if you talk about the 97% target in relation
to the allocation of public law-private law cases, that is not
to say, "Well, it doesn't matter if you don't reach 100%."
What that, in a sense, reflects is to some extent
something that Mr Douglas said: some cases will be so complex
that actually achieving the full 100% target will not be possible.
And/or, if you're using the triage system that Mr Douglas said,
you may have to decide that some cases, on the basis of a first
analysis, are not as sufficiently requiring the intervention that
other cases might require. So I think if you're talking about
targets of this sort, it seems to me this is about right, and
I suppose the whole theology of targetry is to have something
that is stretching but not completely impossible. I think we've
got that about right, but we'll have to keep that under review.
Q52 Ian Swales: The
reason I raised the question is really to say if the targets are
reached, are you satisfied that you have got the right quality
of organisation? Because there is a difference between saying
that we've reached a certain target and we can breathe a sigh
of relief and just deal with doing better, or we've missed a target
which we need to reach and we need to talk about what this 3%
or 4%, or whatever, actually consists of and drive it out of the
process. So there is a very different mindset in terms of the
David Bell: I absolutely
agree, but it would seem to me that if we got into a situation
where we were consistently achieving any targets set, inside the
organisation and beyond, people would say, "Well, that's
not a very demanding target, is it? Because what you've done is
just set it at a level where you'll just get to it without too
much difficulty". If that is less than 100%, you're bound
to ask the question, "Well, why can't it be better?"
So I don't have a view that, if you reach the target, all is well;
you can tick that box. It seems to me if you get to a position
where you're consistently reaching the target, you've probably
got the wrong target and you probably do need to increase the
demand that you're placing on the organisation.
Q53 Mr Bacon: Mr
Douglas, I'd like to address briefly this question of changes
at the top, because you mentioned that there have been a lot of
changes at the top. Page 53 of your annual report says, "Early
termination other than for misconduct would result in the individual
receiving compensation as set out in the individual's contract."
Given these corporate management team changes that are referred
to in the annual report, with various people leaving, how much
did you spend on compensation payments?
Altogether last year we had a corporate restructuring and we lost
over 50 staff and it cost £900,000.
Q54 Mr Bacon: £900,000,
and how many of those were these management team people, corporate
Anthony Douglas: Three
were corporate directors.
Q55 Mr Bacon: That
is Wooderson, Booth and Malik, is that right?
Q56 Mr Bacon: And
how much did they get paid?
Anthony Douglas: Between
Mr Bacon: No, I mean each.
One was £166,000; one was
Q57 Mr Bacon: Sorry,
which was which? Who got £166,000?
Ms Wooderson got £166,000.
Mr Bacon: To leave?
Those were her accrued benefits over, I think, 29 years.
Mr Bacon: She was paid
£166,000 to leave the organisation. That's right; that's
what you're saying.
Anthony Douglas: Indeed.
Q58 Mr Bacon: Okay,
and the next one, Jane Booth?
I believe approximately £45,000.
Q59 Mr Bacon: And
£43,000, but I would stand corrected on the absolute detail,
and I will send you a note if those figures are