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Ofsted finds failings within the Cafcass south east region

Date:22 MAY 2008

Ofsted published a report today on its inspection of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Services (Cafcass) in Kent, Surrey and Sussex.

Ofsted has found that, although Cafcass offers a good to adequate service for children involved in public law proceedings, its services in private law proceedings in the region are inadequate. The report makes a series of recommendations to help improve services in the region.

Christine Gilbert, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector for Education, Children's Services and Skills, said: Some of the services being provided by Cafcass' south east region are adequate or better. But some failings are serious and frankly, unacceptable. Overall the region has a number of inadequacies particularly in the handling of private law cases, where children may be left at risk due to delay in allocation of work, poor assessment of the impact of domestic violence and inadequate reports to the courts.

"Ofsted has made 10 recommendations which, if implemented, should help to improve services in the region. I am pleased to see that Cafcass south east has taken these on board and is acting swiftly to implement a recovery plan. We will monitor the implementation to make sure that the recommendations are followed, that the safeguarding of children's welfare is improved and that the region's services deliver better outcomes for children, young people and families."

Ofsted inspected the quality of service, front line practice and management in the region during November and December 2007.

Inspectors assessed 37 case files in public and private law and found an unacceptable number were inadequate. Many did not record the work that had been done and information did not appear to have been properly analysed in 33 case plans.

Ofsted found that allegations of domestic violence were a common feature in many cases. The impact of domestic violence on children was assessed adequately only in a minority of cases. The report concludes that 'good practice is the exception not the rule' in the south east region.

The inspectors found that priority given to public law has led to serious delays in providing services to children and families involved in private law proceedings, particularly in Kent.

In response to the report Anthony Douglas, Cafcass Chief Executive said: "Our public law work is good and the problems in our private law practice are being urgently addressed I can already guarantee significant improvements."

In February, Ofsted published its first inspection report of Cafcass since its new remit and found the East Midlands division to be inadequate and concluded 'front line delivery is inadequate and needs to improve urgently'. Brian Cantwell, a Private Law Consultant, has written an article, Ofsted, Cafcass and the Courts: The New Private Law Equation, examining this report in this month's (May) Family Law journal.

To read Brian Cantwell's article, log on to Family Law Online or request a free trial by clicking here.