Cafcass has published its strategic plan for 2023-26. The new plan, Ambitious for Children, is a continuation of Cafcass’ 2019-23 strategic priorities focused on relationship-based practice and high ambition for children, families and carers.
It outlines Cafcass’ aim to offer an exceptional experience for the children and young people with whom it works, everywhere and every time.
Through the pandemic, Cafcass’ strategic priorities have been focused on sustaining effectiveness in the face of record demand and backlogs in the family courts. Ofsted’s focused visits to Cafcass in April 2021 and January 2023, reported that despite the significant impact of this high demand, the quality of Cafcass social work practice remained strong and continues to improve.
They found that senior leaders had sustained and improved the overall focus on children’s safety and welfare. Ambitious for Children, the new strategic plan, seeks to build on this progress by setting out three strategic ‘ambitions’, outlined below:
Cafcass’ practice ambition is to provide all children and young people with an exceptional experience, everywhere and every time. The newly published strategy, sets out that this will be achieved by:
- making further improvements to practice by using the Together for Children and Families practice framework and practice and management quality standards as a foundation;
- actively and regularly asking for feedback from the children and families with whom we work, welcoming their perspectives and using the learning to inform practice development and change;
- sharing recommendations with children and their families where this is in children’s best interests, giving them an opportunity to express their views in response;
- offering effective management support, supervision and oversight;
- increasing the proportion of work judged as ‘good’ or ‘better’ with reduced variability between different teams across the country; and
- more efficiently and consistently progressing children’s cases from application to decision.
Cafcass’ people ambition is to provide everyone who works for the organisation with the leadership, professional development and working environment they need. The priorities to achieve this include:
- attracting, retaining and engaging diverse, skilled and highly motivated people;
- improving rewards and benefits, enhancing career opportunities and offering increased support for professional development;
- providing flexible, in-person and online working environments that enable people to do their best work in effective, well-led, and well-connected teams; and
- working to enable leaders to remain visible, effective and clear in their decisions about strategic priorities and how teams will achieve them.
Cafcass’ partners ambition is to continue collaborating on system recovery – specifically delay for children in proceedings – and to seek the views and perspectives of those partners on improving children’s and families’ experiences of proceedings and associated support services. The priorities to achieve this include:
- improving children’s experiences of private law proceedings, including meeting with them earlier when this is needed;
- reducing delays in all types of proceedings and concluding more children’s public law cases within 26 weeks in support of the Public Law Outline;
- improving the experience of children and families in proceedings where domestic abuse is known or alleged;
- making recommendations for how children should be told the outcome of their proceedings; and
- working closely and clearly with partners to make more positive changes in support of national Family Justice Board priorities.
Cafcass Chief Executive, Jacky Tiotto said:
“The priorities we have confirmed in this new strategic plan for 2023 – 2026 are rightly ambitious for children, their families and carers. I am so pleased that we are able to share our 2023-26 strategic plan, Ambitious for Children, with you all and in so doing, set out how we intend to build on the unrelenting commitment and work of everyone who works at and partners with Cafcass.
As you all know, our key responsibilities include safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children in proceedings, supporting our family court advisers and children’s guardians to assess what life is like for children and to advise the family court about what is in their best interests. We want to do this well for children, every time and everywhere. We asked children what they thought this would mean we need to carry on doing and what we need to change. Their words form the basis of our plan and the associated priorities. As ever, we feel privileged to serve them to try to offer them and their families an exceptional experience when they need our help.”