government last week faced calls from MPs to sack the senior
management of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support
House of Commons debate, Liberal Democrat MP Vincent Cable accused
Cafcass of “extraordinary incompetence”, while Conservative MP Nick
Hawkins said the government had been “arrogant and dismissive” in
ignoring MPs’ warnings.
was set up by the Lord Chancellor’s Department in April to unify
the family court welfare service, the children’s division of the
official solicitor and the local authority panels of guardians ad
litem, but the service has been locked in dispute with the 700-plus
self-employed guardians over their independence and employment
terms and conditions.
came to a head in September when the high court ruled Cafcass had
acted unlawfully in removing the option of self-employment from the
guardians (News, page 4, 20 September).
Responding to MPs’ criticisms, Lord Chancellors Department
parliamentary under-secretary Rosie Winterton defended Cafcass for
delivering a good “service on the ground”.
added that since the high court ruling, the Lord Chancellor and
Cafcass had begun consultations with the guardians. She also
revealed Cafcass had accepted the proposal by the guardians’
professional association, the National Association of Guardians Ad
Litem and Reporting Officers, that the consultation process be led
by an independent chairperson, with the results independently
729 self-employed guardians at the beginning of April, only 29 had
left the service, while 175 had accepted employment contracts,
claimed Winterton. She also disputed claims that 22 of the
service’s 57 panel managers had left the service since it became
figures show that, actually, 16 panel managers will have left the
service by the end of December, but that includes a number who will
have retired and some who have been promoted,” she said.