Operation of the Family Courts - Justice Committee Contents

6  Cafcass


161.  The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) provides the people appointed to represent the wishes and feelings of children to the court. It also carries out safeguarding checks (to ensure parents seeking contact are not a danger to children), produces reports requested by the courts and employs or contracts with children's guardians who represent children in public law cases. Cafcass is currently the responsibility of the Department for Education, not the MoJ, and so it is not formally within the Justice Committee's remit. However, Cafcass is a crucial player in the family courts system. It has been the responsibility of the MoJ in the past, and it has been suggested that it might be again in future (as discussed below). As such we felt that it was vital that this inquiry looked at Cafcass. We would like to thank the Department for Education for supplying a Minister to give oral evidence.


162.  Cafcass was created in 2001 and has had a number of problems since then. In 2003 the Chairman of the Board resigned after a very critical report by our predecessor Committee which called for a fundamental review of its operation. The then Lord Chancellor (who was responsible for the Board at the time) then invited the other Board members to resign.[181] Later, the death of Baby Peter in 2007 and the subsequent increase in the number of care proceedings put the organisation under considerable pressure and led to lengthy delays in allocating guardians to cases and in completing reports. We heard conflicting versions of the history of Cafcass and the extent to which Cafcass was responsible for its recent problems. We were told that the time prior to Cafcass was "a golden age"[182] while the Interim Report concluded that "there was no golden age before the creation of Cafcass". Baroness Howarth, Chair of Cafcass, described it as a time when "we had a Rolls-Royce service for some children, [...] and we had hundreds of other children who were never seen."[183] It has been suggested to us by Cafcass that its recent problems were caused by a "surge" in cases after the death of Baby Peter,[184] but we were also told by the Interdisciplinary Alliance for Children that this only increased the number of cases to the levels seen in 1998.[185] Finally we were told that "the current problems faced by Cafcass are both a cause and a symptom of the continuing long delays. The longer a case goes on the more assessments are ordered and the more work the appointed guardian is expected to devote to any one case."[186]

163.  After the death of Baby Peter and the resulting increase in care applications, the number of cases Cafcass had not allocated to a guardian grew, with over 900 unallocated cases by September 2009.[187] In order to tackle this, Cafcass and the President of the Family Division drew up the President's Interim Guidance. Introduced in October 2009 and originally designed to last for six months, this remained in place until October 2010 when it was replaced with a Joint Agreement which is expected to last to October 2011. The President's Interim Guidance was designed to allow Cafcass to provide a "safe minimum service", by focusing on safeguarding and task focused work, and providing reports on specific issues rather than on general welfare.

164.  The Minister responsible for Cafcass, Tim Loughton MP, told us that he thought some of the criticism of Cafcass was unfair: "with all the problems there are with Cafcass, we are going through, hopefully, some quite abnormal times at the moment, given the very high increase in workload that Cafcass has been faced with post-Baby Peter from 2008 onwards. [...] It was slightly unfair to judge Cafcass at that precise time."[188]


Public law

165.  Cafcass has recently been successful in tackling delays in allocating cases to guardians. The number of unallocated public law cases reached its most recent peak in April 2010 at 4.5% (551 cases) while the number of duty allocated public law cases peaked a month later at 9% (1,121 cases).[189] By February 2011 these figures had fallen to 1.7% duty allocated (215 cases) and 0.1% unallocated (9 cases). This was despite the number of open cases increasing by around a thousand to 12,794.[190]

166.  Cafcass told us on 22 March that it currently had seven unallocated public law cases.[191] These figures were disputed by the Association of Lawyers for Children who sent us a list of 17 unallocated cases which they described as the "tip of the iceberg",[192] something Cafcass then itself disputed.[193] There were also 101 cases allocated to managers as of March 2011[194] and Cafcass were not able to assure us that in every one of those cases the manager was actually working on the case.[195] However, even discounting cases allocated to managers and noting the apparent discrepancy raised by the Association of Lawyers for Children, Cafcass has managed to achieve a substantial reduction in unallocated cases, at a time when the number of public law cases continue to rise.


167.  In February 2010 Cafass had 28,124 open private law cases, although it should be noted that the role of Cafcass in such cases is frequently limited to safeguarding checks. Nearly 20% of these cases were allocated on a duty basis, while just under 19% were unallocated. By February 2011 the number of open cases had fallen slightly to 27,453, and the number of unallocated cases had fallen to just 1%, though nearly 14% of cases were still allocated on a duty basis.[196]

168.  Unlike with public law cases, we do not have monthly data on the number of new private law cases. The last figures from 2009 showed 137,480 children were involved in private law applications for the year, a 14% increase on 2008. However, the MoJ has also supplied us with provisional figures for 2010 which show a fall in the number of children to 122,330. The Interim Report quotes unpublished data that show that in the three years 2006-2008 the average case duration for private law children cases in the county courts was 33 weeks. This rose to 36 weeks in 2009, but then fell to 32 weeks in 2010.[197] The combination of a falling number of cases and shorter case duration should reduce the pressure on Cafcass.

169.  In its October 2010[198] update (the most recent) on its progress in cutting delays, Cafcass noted: "the timeliness (and speed) of provision of private law reports is [...] improving [...] most late filed reports are only a few days late, which does not prevent the planned court hearing going ahead. 239 reports (out of 5,469) were filed 11 or more working days late in the period April to September 2010." However, a report by the Committee of Public Accounts in September 2010 noted that a third of section 7 reports were more than 10 days late.[199]


170.  The number of public law care cases Cafcass is receiving each month continues to increase, reaching 816 in May 2011. In 2010-11 there was a record number of cases in ten out of twelve months of the year.[200]

Public law care requests

171.  However, between February 2010 and February 2011 the number of new public law cases rose by only 3.3% to 8,239 while the number of open cases rose by 21% to 12,749 as cases were open longer. This has led to concerns that the number of unallocated cases could begin to rise again. A Committee of Public Accounts report concluded that "with duty allocation needing to reduce quickly and substantially, there is a risk that the reductions could result in the scale of unallocated cases returning to the unacceptable levels seen in summer 2009."[201] Cafcass's draft Operating Manual, dated March 2011, said that "resources are fully stretched".[202] We asked the Minister if he expected public law cases to remain at their current level. He told us that:

I fear they will, and the 882 care applications in March represented the highest monthly figure on record. There has been an increase of 35% in care and supervision cases over the last couple of years, post-Baby Peter. That is a huge increase for any organisation to deal with, let alone one that was in a relatively fragile state, as Cafcass was at that stage.[203]

172.  As we have seen, just the current rate of increase in public law cases will put a huge strain on Cafcass, especially if the number of open cases Cafcass has to deal with continues to rise even faster than the number of new cases. However, there are other factors which have the potential to exacerbate the situation. Any delay in the rest of the court system increases Cafcass's workload by increasing the number of open cases and the size of the files. In addition, cuts to local authority budgets have the potential to impact on Cafcass. We heard that 40% of care cases currently reaching court do so without the local authority having carried out a core assessment.[204] This can result in Cafcass being asked to do the work, or in the case staying open longer while the local authority or an expert witness does the work. Cafcass's draft Operating Manual involves a triage system looking at the quality of the local authority's work. In cases with "significant gaps" the guardian will need to "do more social work".[205]

173.  While the exact figures are disputed, it is clear that Cafcass has made substantial progress in reducing the number of unallocated and duty allocated cases in public and private law. We welcome this progress and hope that it can be maintained. It continues to be a cause for concern, however, that Cafcass was unable to reassure us that, in the 221 cases allocated to managers, those managers were working actively on all those cases. We call on Cafcass to measure and monitor the amount of work carried out by managers in cases allocated to them in order to ensure that genuine progress is made and that these cases are not simply moved off the unallocated list to make those performance statistics look more acceptable. We expect Cafcass to report back to us on this point at the earliest reasonable opportunity.

174.  We share the concerns of the Committee of Public Accounts about the ability of Cafcass to sustain its recent progress given that there is no sign of a future fall in the number of care applications. We are also concerned about the ability of Cafcass to cope with a range of potential future stresses, including any restructuring of itself or of the court system, any additional delays in the court system, and cuts to local authority budgets (which could lead to more poorly prepared cases reaching court).


Self-employed guardians

175.  Cafcass uses a mixture of directly employed staff, self-employed staff, and agency staff. The Association of Lawyers for Children told us that: "even before its inception in 2001, Cafcass was opposed to the use of self-employed guardians, [...] In 2009, despite increasing waiting lists, Cafcass issued a directive that no further cases would be allocated to self-employed guardians. By March 2010, the number of self-employed guardians had reduced to 311."[206] Nagalro suggested that:

there is significant spare capacity within the self-employed workforce to take on new cases, although this group continues to be substantially underused by Cafcass. [...] Instead, numbers of more expensive agency staff have been greatly increased. Many are inexperienced in the role but are likely to ask fewer questions about the way the role is being re-defined.[207]

The Interdisciplinary Alliance for Children agreed, saying that "there is a considerable degree of resistance and hostility to using self-employed guardians. In fact, agency staff are now preferred to self-employed guardians, at much greater expense.[208]

176.  Mrs Justice Pauffley, a High Court judge specialising in family law, explained the benefits of self-employed guardians: "it is [...] a major anxiety that the self-employed guardians, generally the more mature and more experienced guardians, are viewed by some areas as being too expensive. In the judges' experience, those are precisely the individuals who are best able to help in private and public law cases."[209] In contrast, the British Association of Social Workers described the problems with some agency workers:

agency staff have been taken on who may be very unsure of their role, require support and assistance from colleagues and subsequently more input from management which ends up costing more money than a flexible workforce.[210]

177.  Cafcass provided us with the relative costs of different types of staff:

  • Average FCA Agency Rate 2010/11 (hourly rate), £38.93;
  • Average FCA salaried (hours exclude London Weighting (which would raise the figure), and Annual Leave & Bank Holidays to allow a better comparison), £30.34;
  • Self-employed hourly rates, £30 (£33 London).[211]

178.  In answer to a written parliamentary question on 17 May 2011, Cafcass disclosed its spend on different types of staff.[212] This showed that expenditure on self-employed contractors had fallen, while the amount spent on agency social workers had more than doubled in a year:

Financial Year Total spend for self-employed contractors £ Total spend on agency social workers £ Total spend non social work agency staff £
2008-09 7,500,0532,548,593 3,930,365
2009-10 6,974,7336,100,693 3,957,246

179.  The Minister responsible for Cafcass, Tim Loughton MP, told us that:

[the use of self-employed guardians] is largely an operational matter for Cafcass, but I agree with the comments of the judge [Mrs Justice Pauffley]. There is a great deal of expertise in those self-employed workers. There used to be many more of them working within Cafcass before the reorganisation back in 2003, who did a rather good job. Part of the problems with Cafcass now is the haemorrhaging of some of those staff going back 10 years.[213]

180.  Oversight of Cafcass is a matter for the Department for Education. However if Cafcass is not using its resources efficiently to maximise the number of experienced staff, this contributes to delays in allocating cases to Cafcass workers, and in completing reports, which in turn impacts on the entire family justice system. We are puzzled and concerned by Cafcass's continued aversion to the use of self-employed guardians, especially when the amount it spends on agency social workers has more than doubled in a year. Self-employed guardians are cheaper than agency staff and no more expensive than directly employed staff. At the same time they offer greater flexibility, and their expertise is valued by the judiciary. Cafcass should be making considerably greater use of self-employed staff, particularly in the geographical areas where it has difficulty recruiting.


181.  Cafcass has a ratio of non-frontline to frontline staff of 35:65, a figure that Cafcass described as the result of a "draconian cut",[214] pointing out that the figure had come down from 40:60.[215] Baroness Howarth told us that:

When I joined it was 1:50. You could say that is a better ratio in terms of management. It is a very poor ratio in terms of supervision. Those supervisors need to be seen very much as the front line because without them we can't actually ensure quality, and it is the recommendation of anyone who looks at social work.

182.  Cafcass supplied us with benchmarking figures from other agencies within the responsibility of the Department for Education. These did not look at the number of frontline staff, but did show that the amounts spent by Cafcass on HR, legal, knowledge and information management, and finance were comparable with other agencies Cafcass has the lowest spend on communications of any of the agencies. It also has the lowest percentage of staff working on communication by a factor of five.[216]

Percentage Cost of the Finance Function 0.36 1.17 1.95 0.77 1.28 1.04 0.43 1.06 1.83
Percentage Cost of the HR Function 0.7 1.2 0.5 0.9 0.7 1.3 0.3 1.8 1.4
Percentage Cost of Information Technology 0.3 5.3 3.5 4.7 5.0 2.5 0,9 2.7 5.8
Percentage Cost of Communications 8.1 6.0 3.6 7.4 21.6 0.7 13.7 8.1 1.1
Percentage Cost of Legal Services 0.6 0.4 - 1.5 - 0.9 - 1.2 0.4
Percentage Cost of knowledge and information management 0.2 0.18 0.13 - 0.2 0.18 - 0.16 0.18

Source: DfE- Department for Education;NCLS- National College For Leadership of Schools and children's services; PfS- Partnerships for Schools; QDCA- Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency; TDA- Training and Development Agency for Schools; CWDC- Children's Workforce Development Council; and BETCA- British Educational Communications and Technology Agency


183.  We also discussed Cafcass's draft Operating Manual for 2011-13. This will be the first time Cafcass has produced a document of this type. The draft Operating Manual has sections on Value for Money, Corporate Services, and Proportionate Service Management with "20 thematic areas" managers need to be good at.[217] We expressed concerns that the document was process driven, and not useful for staff. Baroness Howarth told us that: "we accept your criticism absolutely. In fact, I have been talking to Anthony [Douglas, Chief Executive, Cafcass] today about whether or not we should have put this out at this stage. The thing is that we want our staff to be able to add their perspective to it."[218] While we welcome the fact that Cafcass has accepted our criticisms that the draft Operating Manual is too process driven and not sufficiently user-friendly for staff, and has said that it will amend the document, we are concerned that the initial draft is indicative of the mindset of Cafcass's senior management.

184.  We did not discuss these specific issues with the Minister, but he told us about his concerns with the management of Cafcass:

Why is it that within the same organisation they can get things quite right in one part of the country and quite wrong in another part? I think there is poor dissemination of best practice, which, to an extent, is down to management. It is management at the top but also management at regional and local level. But then you could say that, ultimately, it is the responsibility of the national management to get it right. [...] Are they actually talking to those areas which are doing it better now? If they are not, why not, and why haven't management done something about it?[219]

185.  Proposed changes to the family justice system in the Interim Report will, if implemented, make demands on Cafcass in terms of change management. It will be crucial for management to deliver that change in ways which support the staff (and self employed and agency workers) to deliver the necessary services for children. The recent experience of Cafcass managing staff, communicating with stakeholders, and the production of the very imperfect draft Operating Manual all indicate that Cafcass management needs urgently to take steps to improve the way they communicate with staff and with others working in the family justice system.

186.  Whilst we recognise the need for Cafcass to be a managed service and for its staff to be supported, the appointment of experienced social workers could justify a lighter touch in management, allowing professional staff more discretion about the way they carry out their role than the detailed and process driven Operating Manual would suggest. This is the future for social workers Professor Munro has set out in her report. Cafcass should look at the lessons that it can learn from her report and adopt Professor Munro's proposed approach.

Service Cafcass provides to children

The current situation

187.  Cafcass's website tells children what they can expect from their Cafcass worker:

Because children don't usually go to court, it's important that someone explains your side of the story. Your Cafcass worker will meet with you a number of times and spend time getting to know you. They will help you understand what is happening in court and they will make sure the family court hears what you have to say.[220]

188.  The website also says that the guardian is a good person for the child to talk to if they have questions or want more information.[221] As we have already noted, the President's Interim Guidance was designed to allow Cafcass to provide a "safe minimum service", by focussing on safeguarding and task-focused work and providing reports on specific issues rather than on general welfare. However, we received a great deal of evidence that while Cafcass has been successful in reducing delays and unallocated cases, the service offered to children had suffered.

189.  A report in 2010 by the Children's Rights Director for England surveyed 58 children. It found that: "many of the children and young people in our groups did not know what Cafcass Guardians [...] did. Even though many children in the groups had experience of decisions being made about them by courts, few could remember having had a Guardian." The children spoke of wanting to have someone speak for them in court, and someone to explain what was happening to them, work Cafcass is supposed to undertake.[222]

190.  Powerful evidence to highlight this problem came from Dr Freedman, a consultant psychiatrist with expertise in this area, who told us:

five years ago when I spoke to a child, the child would tell me about concerns and tell me about the discussions that he or she had had with the guardian. That no longer happens. Now I will ask children, if they haven't mentioned it, "Have you discussed this with your guardian?" More often than not they will ask me, "Who is that?" If I name the guardian, if we are lucky enough to have a guardian by then in a case, they will say to me, "I think maybe I saw them once", or, "I haven't ever seen them.[223]

191.  Dr Maggie Atkinson, the Children's Commissioner, agreed that children did not see enough of their guardians, saying that:

we have got to a place in England where it seems to have helped to lessen delays in some places, but guardians themselves will tell you that they don't get to spend enough time—and enough quality time and consistent time—with the child concerned.[224]

Cafcass's response

192.  Anthony Douglas CBE, Chief Executive of Cafcass, accepted that Cafcass workers sometimes did not spend sufficient time with children, saying that: "practitioners under this degree of pressure do tell me that they are sometimes not able to see a particular child for too long in between contacts or visits. It is a genuine problem. One of the shifts we have to make is to find ways, despite all the other pressures and priorities we have, to do that."[225] Baroness Howarth said that "in a wonderful world where resources were ever-flowing and we had more qualified social workers, of course we would like young people to see more of their social worker. I personally would like young people to be able to see more of social workers—their local authority social workers and maybe our workers—but we have to stay within our remit."[226]

193.  Despite this apparent recognition of the issue, elsewhere Cafcass's evidence was more equivocal. Its written evidence stated that "given the nature of Cafcass' responsibilities in private law applications and the specific and time-limited role of the Children's guardian in public law care cases, the key issue to consider is the rationale and focus of direct work with children, rather than its quantum."[227] Also, Anthony Douglas questioned how much support some children actually needed from their guardian:

I would say that some of the young people I speak to need a guardian a lot more than others. Also, many do have a lot of people around them. Some children are still terrifyingly isolated, but one of the advantages of the services that have built up over the last 15 to 20 years, far more than when I was a practising social worker, is that there are other people supporting children.[228]

194.  Because of the wide variety in the nature of cases it is not possible to have a meaningful target or cap on workloads which is a simple number. Cafcass has created and is trialling a "workload weighting system". This is "intended to encourage the movement of staff towards the median position" depending on the nature of the cases an individual Cafcass worker has, that could be between 12 and 35 cases.[229]

195.  Cafcass was also equivocal about the related issue of whether staff on average currently had too high a workload. Baroness Howarth said that "I am concerned about the pressure we put our staff under and whether or not we can achieve the quality level we are now looking for while we are dealing with the quantity we have."[230] However, when Mr Clark was asked if the current median staff workload was too high he said "It is possible, but I don't think so."[231]

196.  Cafcass's draft Operating Manual provides an illuminating insight into the priority, or lack of it, placed on ensuring front-line staff spend enough time with children. It talks a lot about "proportionate" working. It defines proportionate as "doing no more work than in necessary", which it further defines as "indispensible or essential", something it calls a "high test". The section on public law does recommend that guardians should be "more actively involved if the team [around the child] has no other professionals or safe carers safeguarding and speaking up for him/her."[232] It also says that "children's guardians will always communicate with children and young people to a high professional standard and ensure that older children in public law can contact them by email, text, etc."[233] However, it seems to us there is insufficient weight placed on the needs of the child. There is no mention of the need to keep children informed about the progress of their case, about supporting children in private law cases, or about the importance of developing a relationship with the child. The Manual talks about using a "watching brief" in "fallow periods" during which the guardian should keep in touch with the child's solicitor and the local authority, but there is no mention of the child, who may well be wondering why nothing appears to be happening with their case.

197.  In oral evidence we put some of these concerns about the draft Operating Manual to Cafcass. Baroness Howarth told us that:

In getting it into the wider remit, what I think we have missed is the trick of all the material about the direct work with children which will go into it. We were talking today about: maybe we should have put that in before it got more widely circulated. But we wanted our staff to have a first draft of a document on which they could then come back and say, "These are the areas we would like to add to."[234]

198.  The Minister responsible for Cafcass, Tim Loughton MP, had a very clear view about whether Cafcass workers spent sufficient time with children. He told us that:

despite the best intentions and some very good people working within Cafcass as guardians and others, the amount of quality time that they do spend, or are able to spend, with the actual children is far too low in many cases.[235]

199.  The entire family justice system should be focused on the best interests of the child. Cafcass as an organisation is not. We accept that Cafcass has had to make difficult decisions in order to reduce delays and the number of unallocated and duty allocated cases. However, in order to make progress Cafcass has had to offer a "safe minimum" service, and the amount of time that Cafcass workers currently spend with children is unacceptable in the long term. Cafcass needs to give its workers the opportunity to do what they want to do: spend more time with children. This will involve a change in management culture, and the wholesale re-writing of the draft Operating Manual to focus on identifying and meeting the needs of individual children. Cafcass will also have to re-examine its staff's workload. The current median workload may well be too high to enable Cafcass workers to spend enough time with children. This should not be done at the expense of letting delays escalate, however. There is no doubt that some of the time spent in managing the system could be redeployed to spending more time with children.


200.  We heard arguments for and against any major restructuring or reform of Cafcass. The Interdisciplinary Alliance for Children[236] produced a Draft Proposal for an Alternative Model for the Future Delivery of Court Services to Children in Family Proceedings in England. The proposals included replacing Cafcass with a Family Justice Commissioning Board. This would allocate resources to 39 Family Court Welfare and Child Representation Units, which would commission services locally from a mixed range of Family Court Social Work Practices including practitioners working together in co-operative enterprises. The whole system would be the responsibility of the MoJ, not the Department for Education. We asked Martha Cover, from the Interdisciplinary Alliance for Children, why Cafcass could not be reformed. She told us:

We have anxiously considered the possibility of reform of the organisation rather than abolition and starting again. But we have come to the conclusion, after a lot of debate, that the culture is so entrenched, and the inability of the organisation to take on board and to change to meet the concerns of all of the other partners in the family justice system is such, that we simply have to start again.[237]

201.  However, the Alliance was not able to cost its proposals.[238] We were also concerned about how such a devolved system would be accountable and avoid duplication. The Interim Report also looked at the Alliance's proposals and concluded that:

particularly in the short term, [there would] probably be a shortage of social work provision in some areas of England and Wales; in light of the current national shortage of social workers, and relative immaturity of the existing social work practice pilots, a centrally managed court social work function is preferable to a purchaser-provider commissioning structure.[239]

202.  On 11 November the Committee of Public Accounts (PAC) published Cafcass's response to increased demand for its services[240] which said that "Cafcass, as an organisation, is not fit-for-purpose". Despite this, the Report did not recommend structural change, but instead made a number of recommendations including: better data collection, managing staff members' caseloads, managing sickness, performance-managing managers, and raising morale. The PAC commented on the impact of the change that had already taken place on staff: "Cafcass acknowledged that the morale of its staff was unacceptably low before 2008, and said that staff had become tired of constant change". Linda Lee from the Law Society cautioned in oral evidence to us that: "if you throw out Cafcass and replace it with something else, the risk is that you just create a new set of problems you haven't addressed. It is important that we look at the problem, why it is occurring, and not try and address it by some other lever over here. We should look at the problem in pure management terms of a business."[241] Baroness Howarth, told us that:

my great anxiety now is that having just reached some sort of stability—and we will still be criticised because we can't please everybody with an organisation that deals with what we deal with—that stability will be destabilised through the Family Justice Review. Our job is to try and keep that stability and to meet our critics.[242]

203.  The Minister, Tim Loughton MP, told us why he had not made any major changes so far:

Some people in the past have said that we should scrap Cafcass altogether, but you have to have somebody doing that job. [...] There are a number of reforms and improvements going through with Cafcass that are beginning to bear fruit. There have been some signs of improvement. On that basis, we deferred any decision about the actual future structure of Cafcass until after [the Family Justice Review].[243]

204.  The Interim Report said that "we have not attempted an in depth study of Cafcass's effectiveness"[244] and did not comment on the quality of the management there. Apart from its comments on the Interdisciplinary Alliance's proposals it did not discuss the pros or cons of major changes to Cafcass. The Interim Report's conclusions and recommendations on Cafcass included:

  • Cafcass should become part of the new Family Justice Service;[245]
  • Some "smaller changes" to the way guardians work with children's solicitors including less detailed scrutiny of the child's care plan while continuing to help children understand what is happening in proceedings and to enable them to participate.[246]

205.  We asked the Minister for his reaction. He told us that:

We are not going to make a final judgment until we have got the Final Report but [...] We all see a deal of logic in that direction. There is a lot of work to be done on the detail of a transition, the status of Cafcass within a court service within the MoJ and how we retain the integrity of a board of Cafcass. [...]In principle, that direction, probably, has met with a favourable response from both Departments, but then you have to start thrashing out the detail and that is a rather more complicated process.[247]

206.  We agree with the Interim Report that Cafcass should be made part of the proposed new Family Justice Service. However, we believe that in itself, this will not be enough. It needs to be the first step in a series of reforms designed to transform Cafcass into a less process-driven, more child-focused, and integral part of the family justice system.

207.  We call on the Family Justice Review to address directly the detailed future structure of Cafcass in its final report. We were interested in the suggestions we heard in oral evidence about the development of a wider range of providers, together with a more localised service (perhaps linked to the proposed new Local Family Justice Boards). Any future proposals will have to take into account that Cafcass operates a cash limited system and has to be able to deliver a timely and consistent service to all children, regardless of changes in the volume of cases, over which it does not have control.

181   Constitutional Affairs Committee, First Special Report of Session 2003-04, Protection of a witness-privilege, HC 210.  Back

182   Ev 141 Back

183   Q 282  Back

184   Q 250 Back

185   Q 238  Back

186   Ev 122 Back

187   http://www.cafcass.gov.uk/news/2009/cafcass_reduces_delays.aspx  Back

188   Q 312 Back

189   Duty basis is when Cafcass will both react to incoming information and also will take pro-active steps at appropriate points in time to review the status, needs and level of priority of the case, but unlike a fully allocated case there is not a named Cafcass worker, and a case plan may not be drawn up or worked on.  Back

190   Ev 157 Back

191   Q 258 Back

192   Ev w130 Back

193   Ev 179 Back

194   Ev w13; there were also 120 private law cases allocated to managers. Back

195   Q 277 Back

196   Ev 157 Back

197   Interim report, p 153 Back

198   PA Consulting Report (October 2009) - Cafcass Issues Analysis, October 2010 Update.  Back

199   A court may ask the local authority for a welfare report (Section 7) when they are considering any private law application under the Children Act 1989. Public Accounts Committee, Sixth Report of Session 2010-11, Cafcass's response to increased demand for its services, HC 439. Back

200   Cafcass care demand, latest figures for May 2011, http://www.cafcass.gov.uk/news/2011/may_care_statistics.aspx
The number of new public law cases varies seasonally. 

201   HC [2010-11] 439 Back

202   Operating Manual, Cafcass, 2011, p 3 Back

203   Q 322 Back

204   Q 200 Back

205   Operating Manual, Cafcass 2011, p 11  Back

206   Ev w62 Back

207   Ev 46 Back

208   Q 229 Back

209   Q 172 Back

210   Ev w112 Back

211   Ev 164 Back

212   WPQ, Official Report, 17 May 2011, col 412-3W Back

213   Q 320 Back

214   Q 264  Back

215   Cafcass told us that using the Secretary of State's definition of 'front line' 91.5% of its staff were frontline but that this included frontline business support staff and first line managers. The figures given here are for those staff who work with children.Q260-273 Back

216   Ev 157; All figures are 2009-10 There are "some recognised anomalies within definitions for some functions". IT costs excludes the often 'one off' costs of transformation projects. Back

217   Operating Manual, Cafcass 2011, p 26 Back

218   Q 290 Back

219   Q 315 Back

220   http://www.cafcass.gov.uk/cafcass_and_you/info_for_children.aspx Back

221   http://www.cafcass.gov.uk/about_cafcass/info_for_teenagers/going_into_care.aspx Back

222   Children on family justice, A report of children's views for the Family Justice Review Panel, 2010, Children's Rights Director for England Back

223   Q 213 Back

224   Q 382 Back

225   Q 283  Back

226   Q 281 Back

227   Ev 157  Back

228   Q 284 Back

229   Ev 157 Back

230   Q 285 Back

231   Q 276 Back

232   Operating Manual, Cafcass 2011, p 13  Back

233   Operating Manual, Cafcass 2011, p 3-4  Back

234   Q 290 Back

235   Q 323 Back

236   The Interdisciplinary Alliance for Children proposal is supported by: ALC (Association of Lawyers for Children); NAGALRO (Professional Association for Children's Guardians and Children and Family Reporters and Independent Social Workers); FLBA (Family Law Bar Association); RCPCH (Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health); Office of Children's Commissioner; Great Ormond Street Hospital; Grandparent's Association; Aire Centre; Adoption UK; BAAF (British Association of Adoption and Fostering); Children's Legal Centre; NYAS (National Youth Advisory Service); CRAE (Children's Rights Alliance for England); Together Trust; BASW (British Association of Social Workers); and Women's Aid Back

237   Q 219 Back

238   Q 224  Back

239   Interim Report, p 57 Back

240   HC (2010-11) 439 Back

241   Q 136 Back

242   Q 285 Back

243   Q 312 Back

244   Interim Report, p 71 Back

245   Interim Report, p 10 Back

246   Interim Report, p 133 Back

247   Q 312 Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 14 July 2011