In September 2014 Ricard Benyon the MP for Newbury posed the following question in Parliament:
“To ask the Secretary of State for Justice
(1) how many complaints have been made against the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service in the last three years; and how many such complaints have been upheld;
(2) how many complaints have been (a) made and (b) upheld against the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service in the last three years”
Simon Hughes who was the incumbent Minister for State for the Ministry of justice responded as follows:
The following table sets out the number of complaints received by CAFCASS in each of the last three years:
Financial year Number of complaints 2011-12 1,264 2012-13 1,496 2013-14 1,596
In 2012 CAFCASS simplified their complaints process, reducing the number of stages involved from three to one and ending the classification of complaints as ‘upheld’. Figures for the number of upheld complaints during this period do not, therefore, exist. The focus of the complaints system is now on putting things right for service users while their case is ongoing so that any necessary remedial action can be taken.
The rising trend shown by the figures is, in part, a reflection of the increase in the volume of cases which CAFCASS dealt with during this period. However, the main factors which have contributed to the rising trend are CAFCASS’ focus on raising awareness of the complaints process for service users.
These are the important items to note from that response:
- In 2012 Cafcass ended the classification of complaints as “upheld”, and
- Simon Hughes said “The focus of the complaints system is now on putting things right for service users while their case is ongoing so that any necessary remedial action can be taken”, and
- he also said: “the main factors which have contributed to the rising trend are CAFCASS’ focus on raising awareness of the complaints process for service users”
In February 2015 Cafcass were asked directly:
“Please advise the following
1. The number of cases dealt with by CAFCASS each year for the last 5 years
2. The number of complaints received each year for the last 5 years
3. The number of compliments received or satisfied clients (where this has been communicated in writing/email) each year for the last 5 years”
Cafcass responded to say:
Information is provided by calendar year based on received data of the case; cases include both private and public law cases.
The Cafcass complaints procedure changed in February 2012 to be a simpler one-step complaints procedure. This procedure ensures that complaints regarding professional opinion and judgement of FCAs can, wherever possible, be notified to the relevant court while the proceedings are ongoing, so that the judge is aware of these concerns and Cafcass’ response to them. There was a mail-out to all current service users about the change in the procedure, following which the first six months of the procedure saw a significant increase in the number of complaint referrals.
Before July 2014, a complaint was recorded for each member of staff about whom a service user complained. Therefore if a service user complained about more than one member of staff, each would be logged as a separate complaint. From July 2014 in the new case recording system (ECMS), one complaint is recorded for each complaint received, which covers all issues the service user has raised within that complaint.
The compliments data only includes unsolicited positive feedback from service users; Cafcass also collects written feedback from service users locally, this is not collated centrally and is not included in the compliments figures below.
The old Cafcass case management system (CMS) which from July 2014 is a static database where no further updates will be made.
The data included here is a snapshot on the closing data of the database.
The current Cafcass case management system (ECMS) which is a live system and is therefore subject to change.
Calendar year Cases received Complaints received Compliments received 2010 55,564 1,047 265* 2011 54,230 1,124 367 2012 58,727 1,613 716 2013 61,900 1,449 1,005 2014 50,360 1,476 599
* 2010 compliment data is a part year, as compliment data was collected from April 2010 only.
We have previously researched how many complaints were escalated by Cafcass themselves to HCPC and Cafcass had responded to say:
Please see the below table for detail of the number of referrals made to the
HCPC in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Year Number of Referrals to HCPC 2014 5 2015 0 2016 3
Cafcass Feedback Forms
earlier you may have noticed the response which included a statement about Cafcass having a feedback mechanism.
“Cafcass also collects written feedback from service users locally”
“We also provide mechanisms for feedback for service users including feedback forms that are available in offices and via email and are accessible for all staff.”
They were asked to please provide a copy of one of these feedback forms which they did. You can view each feedback from below:
- Feedback Form for Adult Parties
- service user feedback older children
- service user feedback younger children
Update October 2017
The same requester went back and asked the following questions. Cafcass’ answers are shown inline below:
1. what is the criteria for supplying these forms to a service user? in other words please confirm why a service user would be given one of these forms and why a service user would not be given one of these forms
Cafcass responded: Service user feedback forms are available in all Cafcass offices for service users to take away and complete. Service user feedback forms are also provided to service users by Family Court Advisors (FCAs) during face to face appointments with parties. Service user feedback forms are also provided when requested by a service user.
2. how many service users were provided with these forms in 2015, 2016, and so far in 2017?
Cafcass responded: Cafcass does not formally record how many service users are provided with feedback forms.
3. how many service users returned these feedback forms in 2015, 2016, and 2017?
Cafcass responded: Cafcass does not formally record how many service users return feedback forms. Although feedback is formally recorded on our Electronic Case Management System (ECMS) in the form of complaints and compliments, this feedback can be given in many forms, including via email, telephone, or in person, as well as via the service user feedback forms.
4. how and where do you record the feedback submitted via these feedback forms? please provide the name of any system that you use, and provide details of who is responsible for ensuring that any feedback is recorded on any system
Cafcass responded: If a service user (either an adult or a child) has written complimentary comments on a feedback form, this will be recorded as a Compliment on our Electronic Case Management System (ECMS) by our Customer Feedback Team.
If a service user (either an adult or a child) has made a complaint or expressed dissatisfaction with the handling of their case on a feedback form, the service user will be contacted by the Customer Feedback Team to see if they wish for their comments to be taken forward as a Complaint. Complaints are also recorded on ECMS by our Customer Feedback Team.
5. have you produced any reports using the feedback provided from these forms? if so please confirm details and indicate whether these were internal or external reports
Cafcass responded: Cafcass has previously conducted Service User Feedback Surveys in 2013 and 2014 as part of our research work.
The studies sought to gain feedback from service users about the impact of Cafcass’ work on them. The reports can be found on our website.
Compliments and complaints data are reported quarterly to senior managers. However there have been no reports produced based solely on the feedback collected from service user feedback forms.
6. and lastly, please confirm at what stage of the case management do you provide these forms to service users
Cafcass responded: Please see the answer to question one.
You can view the PDF below which contains Cafcass’ complaints and compliments procedures:
If you’ve ever made a complaint to Cafcass we’d be interested in your comments below or feel free to get in touch with us. Please remember to NOT include any case specific information in your comment including anything that could identify you or your children.
In a Family Law system designed for combative parents there is no real allowance for the views of children and any understanding of how Family Law ultimately impacts on children most of all.
We speak for the children in Family Law so that, finally, the children have a voice.