The report sets out the context in which Cafcass works. It describes our focus on driving up quality and how we have met our Key performance Indicators while managing rising demand effectively and delivering savings when and where we can. The report also confirms that an increased budget has been agreed with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) for the next financial year to ensure we have sufficient resources to withstand the pressures from the continued growth in demand and deliver further improvements.
It acknowledges the commitment of staff to ensuring the highest standard of service for the 125,230 children we worked with.
To give insight into our work and the experiences of many children going through the family courts, this year we introduced two fictional case studies setting out examples of a child’s journey through a public law case (where a local authority has made a care application) and a private law case (an application about arrangements for children, usually following parental separation).
The report shows that we have continued to produce high quality casework, with 69% of cases audited assessed as ‘outstanding’ or ‘good’. Such improvements have been supported by our introduction of a new framework for assuring the quality of our work which focuses on child outcomes; thematic audits on practice areas such as domestic abuse in private law and the voice of the child in casework; and the expansion of our Evidence Informed Practice Tools. This included the introduction of our Domestic Abuse (DA) Practice Pathway (the first of its kind in the sector), to ensure a systematic review of any risk posed to children.
Innovative practice, such as embedding our National Psychology Service to support practitioners to enhance their expertise and improve the quality of recommendations through the provision of 1:1 consultations with an accredited clinical psychologist, has also led to improvements in our casework. We are exploring how we can further gather service user and stakeholder feedback about the quality of our work and its impact on outcomes for children to better monitor the value we add for children and to help inform future improvements.
The report shows how we have continued to support improved services in the wider family justice sector and help shape future sector reform through close working with the MoJ, DfE, sector agencies and through our membership of formal boards such as the Family Justice Board. It also outlines the various pilots we have carried out in private and public law with the aim of diverting cases from court where it is safe and appropriate to do so, so that the courts can provide a timely service to children and families where necessary. Commentary from our Cafcass Chair and Chief Executive highlights that such reform will be pivotal to manage demand levels, both in relation to the services we provide and more widely in the family justice sector.
The report also outlines the support we provide to the Family Justice Young People’s Board (FJYPB) and the important contribution the young people make to promoting the voice of the child in the family justice sector.
The Annual Report and Accounts for 2016-17, were approved by the Cafcass Board on 15th June, subject to any changes from the National Audit Office (NAO). The accounts were signed off by the NAO on 13th July, with no issues recorded. Auditors fed back that this year’s report is ‘exemplary’ in terms of its presentation of complex information in an accessible format, bringing to life how we work with children and young people, and on its layout.
An easy read version of the Annual Report and Accounts will follow, pulling out the headlines from the year and making our information easier to access.