Poor data quality and the need for new IT systems contributed to significant problems at Cafcass, the body which oversees the protection of vulnerable children, according to a report for a powerful House of Commons committee.
Margaret Hodge MP, chair of the Public Accounts Committee today slammed the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service and the way it handled a spike in cases in the aftermath of the Baby P tragedy.
“Cafcass was ill-prepared for the very large increase in care cases in 2009-10 which followed the Baby Peter tragedy and caused chaos in the family justice system,” she said.
This lack of readiness was a direct result of the organisation’s continued failure to get to get to grips with the fundamental weaknesses in its culture, management and performance, which was damaging to children, the committee found.
The committee highlighted the failure by Cafcass to collect and retaine the case data it needs to properly manage the organisation, and problems with the quality of data it did collect.
It also highlighted a report by the National Audit Office that the main Cafcass office IT system, “the Cabinet Office sponsored ‘flex' system (run by Fujitsu), was yet to show significant benefits”.
Work is going on to improve management information systems and facilitate mobile working, Anthony Douglas, chief executive of Cafcass told the committee.
“We need to do more to facilitate our practitioners taking more work with better systems around them, particularly to be able to record more briefly out in the field and to be able to upload that onto the systems that we have.
“We have a number of home workers - so giving people the tools for the job and improving basic IT, including its reliability, is a huge issue. I would say there is 10% more productivity improvement if we can get that right,” he said.