The global reduction in most budgets means that it is urgent to save all costs that can be avoided, without undermining service levels. Inevitably, we spend a lot of time in Cafcass focusing on this. A good example is the way our small team of five lawyers and four sessional psychologists are improving our practitioners’ confidence in their own expertise, in areas that might traditionally have routinely gone to expensive expert witnesses.
For five lawyers and four sessional psychologists to be able to advise and support over 1700 Cafcass practitioners across England does make you sit up and think. But they do it through focused phone conversations (up to one hour) about either legal or psychological issues for a child, parent, family or for case management.
For example, our psychologists focus mostly on concerns about the psychology or personality of a parent. By looking at the behaviours which cause the practitioner concern and discussing strategies to respond to these perceived or real problem behaviours, it enables practitioners to worry less about a diagnosis than what can be done to either reduce problem behaviours or to give others strategies to manage them. We use a child psychology perspective so that parental behaviours can be viewed through the eyes of the child in question. This has given practitioners more confidence in their risk assessment and their child impact analyses.
Using sessional specialist expertise to increase the confidence and skill base of mainstream staff has wider applications, which we are carrying out further work on so as to increase the skill base of our practitioners, business support staff, our own specialist staff and managers, including myself. We are open to ideas. Sometimes, that injection of specialist expertise to think and work differently can lead to large-scale savings. We do not just need to talk about the use of behavioural insight strategies and ‘nudge’ for people using services. It can work for staff too.
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