Ofsted rates Cafcass services as outstanding

Cafcass goes from inadequate in 2009 to outstanding in 2018

Published on 30th March 2018

Cafcass has been rated outstanding by Ofsted which praised the organisation for “listening to children, understanding their world and acting on their views”.

The Ofsted inspection said exceptional, aspirational corporate and operational leaders work relentlessly to ensure that children and their families benefit from good or outstanding services.

“Since the last inspection, the chief executive, together with the national service director and supported by an effective and active board, have worked diligently to develop and support a culture of continuous learning and improvement,” said the report. “Stability of leadership and strong aspirations to ‘get it right’ for vulnerable children are key factors in their success.”

“The vast majority of Cafcass staff at all levels consistently provide excellent quality services for children, their families and the family courts,” it added.

Cafcass, who help over 130,000 children a year, has been on a strong path of continuous improvement. Beginning from an inadequate base in 2009 and one that the Public Accounts Committee said was ‘not fit for purpose’ in 2010, to an Ofsted judgement of ‘Good’ in 2014 and now ‘Outstanding’ in 2018.

In the inspection, the quality and effectiveness of Cafcass private law practice with families and public law practice with families were both rated ‘good’. The leadership and governance of the national organisation and the leadership and management of local services were rated ‘outstanding’ with an overall ‘outstanding’ rating.

Inspectors said Cafcass was graded outstanding because it has continued to improve against a backdrop of rising demand. Furthermore it highlights:

Cafcass’s highly evolved and mature strategic relationships with its key family justice partners (Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Services (HMCTS), the Judiciary and the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) have led to creative and innovative services nationally and locally.

  • Cafcass practitioners ’ effective and authoritative practice adds value and leads to better outcomes for the majority of children.
  • Most direct work is well planned, done at the child’s pace, and ensures that the child understands what is happening.
  • Performance management is a key priority.                         
  • Strong governance arrangements are firmly in place, augmented by a culture of professional accountability and respectful challenge at every level across the organisation.
  • The national business centre (NBC) is exceptionally well-managed, effective and efficient meaning that Cafcass’s services for children benefit from the support of a coherent and expertly coordinated range of centralised systems.
  • Business services and social work staff are skilled and committed.

Inspectors recommend Cafcass further improves the quality of recording in case plans and contact logs to ensure that management direction is explicit and prioritised. They should strengthen the consistency of management recording in performance and learning reviews (PLRs) to ensure that areas for development are clearly articulated and evaluated.

Furthermore, Cafcass should fully implement the system to monitor the quality of work when practitioners step down from self-regulating their own work and ensure that reports to court consistently explain when issues of diversity are not relevant to the application.

Cafcass Chief Executive, Anthony Douglas said: “I am thrilled with the inspection findings. ‘Outstanding’ judgements in our sector are exceptionally rare and we are very proud to join the three other children’s social work organisations who have achieved this.

“As the largest employer of social workers in the country, being judged as ‘outstanding’ shows just what social workers can achieve. I am proud of all of our staff and all that they do, particularly our shared values about the importance of helping children and young people get to a better place in their lives. Cafcass is a great place to practise social work and we intend to now take our work to the next level. We will have to do this merely to stand still, considering the pressures we are under – the same pressures as all social work teams and organisations,” he concluded.

Ofsted inspection of Cafcass


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