Interdisciplinary alliance questions whether Cafcass is fit for purpose

An alliance of 18 senior family lawyers, unions, children’s charities and health organisations is calling for an urgent overhaul of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass).

While stopping short of explicitly calling for Cafcass to be scrapped, the Interdisciplinary Alliance for Children says in a statement that it “questions whether the Cafcass model of service delivery is either the most effective in terms of outcomes for the vulnerable children involved or the most cost-effective use of all the available resources, both human and financial”.

It is calling on the government to urgently review whether Cafcass is fulfilling its statutory duty to support children in the court system, added a spokeswoman for the alliance.

The statement follows a damning report published by the National Audit Office (NAO) last week that said Cafcass could have responded more quickly and cost effectively to the surge in cases following the Baby Peter scandal.

Among those to sign the statement are alliance members the Association of Lawyers for Children, British Association of Adoption and Fostering, Children’s Rights Alliance for England and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

Another is public sector union Napo, which has been one of the fiercest critics of Cafcass’s organisation and management. It says its members spend 80 per cent of their time on paperwork rather than with families and children.

A spokeswoman for Cafcass said: “It is important to understand the increase in cases we have experienced and the measures we have taken to effectively deal with them.”

She added that the latest figures show there are 143 unallocated cases, “which is still high but is seven times lower than a year ago”.