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Ofsted has published a damning inspection report for Cafcass Greater London area classing its overall effectiveness "inadequate", the lowest grade possible.
Ofsted carried out the inspection in the Greater London service area in the week commencing 7 December 2009. The service area covers all 33 local authorities in the Greater London area.
Although the report acknowledges that in the main the service area meets its statutory obligations, it said that children and families are still waiting too long before being assisted by Cafcass.
Ofsted said that Cafcass Greater London's engagement with service users is very weak. The report said: "Management information is often out of date or inaccurate and few performance targets are met. Complaints handling and the contribution by Cafcass to the promotion of improved outcomes for children and young people are inadequate, in particular in private law, where the impact of family breakdown on health, education and economic outcomes for children is not well considered or addressed."
The report continued: "The service area knows its areas of strength and weakness in most respects, but overestimates its strengths in performance management and in assessing and meeting the equality and diversity needs of children and their families."
The report confirms what many family solicitors in London have been saying for months. Christina Blacklaws, former Chairman of the Law Society's Family Law Committee wrote in the Law Society Gazette last September: "As a child in the care system in London, you could wait four to six months before a children's guardian is allocated by Cafcass. That means the court has no independent advice from the guardian - an experienced social work expert - and the child has no one independent with whom to speak about their wishes and feelings.
This work provides commentary, checklists, procedural guides and precedents on the subject in a...