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Ofsted to introduce new Cafcass inspections

@Ofstednews is set to introduce a new, more effective and proportionate approach to inspecting Cafcass (the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service).

The inspectorate will use a ‘whole-system’ approach of shorter inspections every 3 years, with more regular contact in between, to build a better picture of Cafcass’s practice. It will bring Cafcass inspections in line with Ofsted’s other inspections of children’s social care.

Today (17 Mar), Ofsted has published its consultation outcome confirming that its proposals will be introduced in full. The new approach includes:

  • a 3-yearly national judgement inspection
  • focused visits between judgement inspections, looking at a specific area of service/cohort of children
  • annual sharing of a self-evaluation of frontline practice in both public and private law
  • an annual engagement meeting between Ofsted and the Cafcass chief executive and senior leadership team

At the 3-yearly inspection, Ofsted will judge the quality and effectiveness of Cafcass’s private law and public law practice, and the impact leaders have on practice with children and families. If Cafcass is judged to be inadequate, Ofsted will carry out monitoring visits to make sure improvements are made.

Ofsted received over 300 responses to its consultation. The majority broadly agreed with the proposals. Responses were from a mix of those working with children and families in the family courts, parents and other family members.

The new approach will take effect from 1 April 2021. Ofsted will begin with a focused visit of Cafcass as part of a phased return to routine social care inspection. The visit will provide assurance about the quality and impact of Cafcass’s work with families, while taking ongoing COVID-19 restrictions into account.

Ofsted will review the effectiveness of the new approach during the early stages of rollout.

Yvette Stanley, Ofsted’s National Director for Regulation and Social Care, said:

Children involved in the family justice system deserve the highest standard of care and support during what is often a distressing time. Our new approach to inspecting Cafcass is proportionate yet rigorous, providing more frequent scrutiny of its work with families and a greater focus on children’s experiences. My thanks to everyone who gave us their views.

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