Independent Research into Cafcass Outcomes

Please could you confirm the last date of any independent research commissioned by CAFCASS into the outcomes of cases with CAFCASS involvement, including who conducted the research, and the summary findings of that research?

Cafcass replied:

Cafcass has not commissioned any independent research into the outcomes of cases with Cafcass involvement.

Please could you confirm the last date of any independent research commissioned by CAFCASS into the satisfaction of cases with CAFCASS involvement, including who conducted the research, and the summary findings of that research?

Cafcass replied:

Cafcass has not commissioned any independent research into the satisfaction of cases with
 Cafcass involvement.

Cafcass HAVE published a report that they call their “Third Annual Survey” based on a sample of parents’ views about private law cases and outcomes.

They normally refer to this report and its finding like this:

In 2016, Cafcass conducted its third annual national survey on a sample of parents’ views about private law cases and outcomes.
The study sought principally to explore ‘what happened next’, inquiring into how arrangements made at court have worked out for parents and their children six to nine months after the conclusion of proceedings

You can view a copy of that study here:

There is a problem though. We found that someone had made a FOI request for the information used as a basis for this Cafcass study as follows:

Dear Cafcass
In this study you report (on pages 9 and 10) that of the 149 people you asked to take part in your survey “9% reported that the court ordered that the child should move to live with a different parent than they were previously living with”. In other words a change of residency.
In your table at the top of page 10 you show that this is a collated percentage of respondents and therefore the figure of actual cases within your study where this took place could be lower than the 13 or 14 that it initially appears to be.
1. Please look at the data for the 13 to 14 cases I have detailed above from your own statistics and provide the actual number of cases within your study where a change of residency between parents was ordered.
2. In these specific cases (Q1) from your study where a residency change was ordered, how many of the Cafcass s7 report recommendations recommended a change in residency and how many did not?
3. In these specific cases (Q1) from your study where a residency change was ordered please provide the gender breakdown where the residency was changed from a father to a mother, and from a mother to a father.
4. In these specific cases (Q1) from your study where a residency change was ordered please provide the number of cases where your s7 reports recommended a change in residency from a mother to a father, and from a father to a mother.

Cafcass replied to say:

In the study, there were 2 cases where the court ordered a change in residence. In the study, 13 service users reported that the court ordered that the child should move to live with a different parent than they were previously living with but when the case files were checked this was only the case in 2 of the 13 cases. [emphasis added]
None of the section 7 reports recommended a change in residency.
In the 2 cases where the court recommended a change of residency both were from the child living with the father to a shared care arrangement.

The researcher immediately seems to have spotted that the Cafcass answer discredited Cafcass’s own published study and press coverage of their own report. They made an immediate follow up request as follows:

Could you clarify whether it was my request that prompted you to look at the individual cases and identify the discrepancy between the study participant’s reported outcomes and the actual cases or whether you had already identified this?

Cafcass replied:

Yes, it was the FOI request that prompted us to look at the cases and identify the discrepancy.

The researcher then wanted to know if they’d identified any other discrepencies…

Please would you provide summary details on any other discrepancies you identified between your survey data and the actual case files?

Like clockwork, Cafcass replied:

Cafcass does not hold this information centrally. In order to provide a response, each case file involved in the survey would need to be checked individually against the response supplied in the survey in order to determine any discrepancies; as there were over 140 cases involved in the survey, the cost of compliance would exceed the appropriate limit which for Cafcass is £450

So their own study data is incorrect. They only know this because they were asked about it. Some 6 month’s later it is still on their website being read by hopeful parents looking for a sign that Cafcass will recommend changes in residency if the welfare of the child demands it.

Let’s turn to measuring outcomes now. Do Cafcass measure outcomes of cases that they’ve been involved in?

In Cafcass’ Quality Account 2015–2016 under the section “Measuring the child’s voice” Cafcass claim that they measure the outcome: “Court order reflects assessed recommendations

One of our researchers asked them to specifically produce evidence of this and to identify how and where this outcome is recorded. The motivation for this request was because many FOI requests to Cafcass have been returned with responses from Cafcass saying they they do NOT record any information like this and that they have no way of tracking it.

Cafcass replied to say:

we do not formally record if the court order reflects the recommendations given by the practitioner in the case.
The examples of evidence of outcomes in the 2015–16 Quality Account are examples of how Cafcass measures outcomes on a case-by-case basis, rather than examples of quantitative or national measures recorded by Cafcass.

So Cafcass were asked again:
 Would you please provide the number of cases in 2016, again broken down on a month by month basis, where the outcome “Court order reflects assessed recommendations” was recorded?

Cafcass replied:

Cafcass does not collect information on whether court orders reflect the FCAs assessed recommendations centrally.
In order to provide a response, each case file would need to be checked individually and the court order cross referenced against the practitioner’s recommendations

So what about internal reporting?

Cafcass say:

“Area Performance Summaries are produced on a monthly basis to provide Assistant Directors and Heads of Practice with a detailed picture of their Service Area’s performance, allowing them to identify strengths and areas for improvement”

So we asked for copies of some of these reports…

“Please would you provide copies of your Area Performance Summaries for January and February of 2017 for the following Service Areas: A8, A14, A16, and A17”

They supplied the following documents for January 2017 and for February 2017:

…when you view the actual reports provided to their senior team all you’ll see are amounts of cases and time taken — there’s no detailed analysis of case types, of complaints, or more importantly, of any outcomes for the families and children — Cafcass are merely reporting internally on their performance as a metric of time taken.

In a commercial organisation, or one actually focused on what Cafcass are supposed to be focused on, this report data would form only PART of the picture. It would be supported by granular reports on types of cases, types of recommendations, whether the courts supported those recommendations, and even so far as to record how many times the parties have had to return to court.

Instead, they simply measure numbers of cases and time taken — they do no meaningful research, they don’t measure outcomes, they don’t allow any meaningful external research to be conducted, and they bury as much information (and one could argue that they’re doing this intentionally) deep within their ECMS inside individual files to make it prohibitively expensive for anyone to surface that information and data.

Is this really how an organisation set up to assist the Courts with decisions about Children should be acting?


Originally published at The Voice of the Child.

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