Guardians defeat Cafcass in court challenge

The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service acted
“unlawfully” in withdrawing the option of self employment from
self-employed children’s guardians, the high court has ruled,
writes Jonathan Pearce.

Delivering judgement in the judicial review application by the
National Association of Guardians Ad Litem and Reporting Officers,
Mr Justice Scott Baker today quashed Cafcass’ decision of 27 June
to offer the guardians only salaried employment.

Cafcass’ decision followed months of negotiations with the
guardians, which followed discussions with the Lord Chancellor
department’s project team before Cafcass’ inception in April. It
led to a “legitimate expectation” of both employed and self
employed options.

Children’s guardians – formerly guardians ad litem – are the
independent voice of children in care and adoption cases, and are
appointed by the family courts.

Self-employed guardians have been in dispute with Cafcass over
proposals to pay them on a graduated or fixed fee basis which
Nagalro claims threatens their independence and professional
ability to safeguard the best interests of vulnerable children.

Describing Cafcass’ decision in June as a “bombshell”, Scott
Baker said: “Cafcass has acted unlawfully in relation to its
commitment” to offer both employed and self-employed options.

The board’s decision was a “complete volte-face”, added the
judge, and rejected Cafcass’ submissions that it had no choice, but
to withdraw the self-employed contract because Nagalro “did not
want what was on offer”.

There were a number of issues in dispute. “Nagalro had pushed
for hourly rates but that does not mean they would never have
agreed to graduated fees,” he added.




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