Cafcass National Improvement Service (NIS)

Estimated reading time: 3 min

Cafcass often refer to the National Improvement Service or NIS when answering questions about who has authored or produced a tool or framework. This can be confusing for readers not up to speed on what Cafcass mean by this. Some readers for example are under the illusion that the National Improvement Service (NIS) is an independent body that Cafcass use when needing new tools producing or existing tools reviewed.

This is not the case.

The National Improvement Service (NIS) is a department within Cafcass itself.

Cafcass say:

The NIS team is a unique department within Cafcass in that the majority of NIS staff are social work qualified managers, reflecting the need for a level of seniority and practice expertise

Cafcass go on to say:

The function of NIS is to deliver a variety of services aimed at monitoring and improving practice within the organisation. The NIS team supports individuals, teams and service areas to identify and make changes required to drive forward the quality of work throughout Cafcass.

There is a problem with these statements.

Firstly, the NIS is staffed by existing Cafcass employees and social workers. They are not independent.

Secondly, Cafcass refer to quality and yet our researchers who have asked Cafcass about the quality training and qualifications of both Cafcass FCAs and Cafcass NIS staff have been told that Cafcass provide no training on quality assurance, and that there is no requirement for any form of quality qualifications for Cafcass FCAs.

A request specifically about the details of their quality assurance qualifications, research qualifications, or relevant data analysis qualifications for the NIS staff led the to the following response from Cafcass:

Cafcass is unable to provide you with personal information belonging to individual staff members. The information you have requested is personal data relating to employees to whom Cafcass owes a duty of confidence.

From this we can assume that there is no blanket qualification requirement and that although some members of the NIS department *may* have suitable and relevant qualifications Cafcass would have to dig through their employee files to find it.. And then they don’t have to disclose it as it would be classed as “personal information”.

If we contrast this with requests for information about the qualifications and experience required for FCAs where we are directed to Job Descriptions published online (none of which by the way indicate any requirement, essential or desirable, for any quality, research, or data analysis qualifications) we can only be left with the impression that Cafcass’ NIS team have none of these either.

This is the team remember, that are responsible for authoring a number of key documents and tools, including the new Quality Assurance Framework (QAI Framework) that Cafcass are using to judge the success of their trial run of Child Impact Reports against their existing Section 7 reports. The same new reports that they have provided no formal training on.

You can view the new QAI Framework here:

A researcher asked Cafcass the following questions:

Please identify the elearning modules that you provide to FCAs on using the QAI Framework

Cafcass does not have eLearning modules on the QAI Framework

Please provide details on any training that you provide FCAs and your QAI team on understanding the differences between subjectivity and objectivity, correlation and causation.

Cafcass does not have training on understanding the differences between subjectivity and objectivity, correlation and causation

Please provide copies or details of any other policies, processes, and training (elearning or other) on research methodologies and data analysis that you provide to FCAs.

Cafcass does not have training on research methodologies and data analysis for FCAs.

We’ll be returning to the subject of Cafcass quality assurance in future posts but for now take the time to read the QAI document above, and take the time to consider that this was not produced by an independent or qualified team.

You can see for yourself on Page 3 where they talk about “Measuring Outcomes” that they don’t even understand their own capabilities for measuring or reporting on cases.

This looks to us and others more qualified in quality assurance to be a band-aid that Cafcass are attempting to apply to questions over their quality assurance processes for reports and tools.

How is this in any way in the best interests of the children that Cafcass are supposed to be representing?


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