Cafcass's response to increased demand for its services: sixth report of session 2010-11, report, together with formal minutes, oral and written evidence

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The Stationery Office, Nov 11, 2010 - Law - 45 pages
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Following the publicity around the Baby Peter tragedy in 2008, Cafcass (the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) experienced a significant and sustained increase in demand for its services, receiving around 34 per cent more care cases in 2009-10 than the previous year. This led to chaos across the family justice system, and exposed Cafcass as an organisation that was not fit for purpose in dealing with the increased number of cases. Although judges in the family court are satisfied with the quality of the advice and reports that Cafcass's family court advisers provide, Cafcass has failed to get to grips with fundamental weaknesses in its culture, management and performance. Ofsted inspections reported an inadequate service. Allocation of cases to courts is slow, data held is inaccurate, sickness absence is unacceptably high and staff morale is low. Cafcass was only able to respond to the increase in demand through the use of temporary measures (duty allocations) which allowed it to do less work or to delay work on cases. Transitional arrangements, pending the outcome of the Family Justice Review, aim to continue reducing delays in allocating cases, while minimising the use of duty allocations. The Committee does not share the Department's confidence that the substantial organisational problems will be overcome by 2011. Strong leadership, renewed energy and focused committed are needed to sort this situation out if Cafcass is to become the world-class organisation it aspires to be.

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