The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service has
been forced to employ agency staff to tackle the chronic shortage
of children’s guardians in legal cases, writes
Waiting lists for care order cases are increasing across the
country, with many areas previously unaffected now reporting waits,
some of up to six months. In London alone, the waiting list is
around 180 cases, caused by a 20 per cent rise in the number of
cases and a shortage of social workers.
As a short-term fix, Cafcass plans to employ 15 agency
guardians. Eight started work this week, and it is understood that
each one will deal with up to 12 cases at a time.
The move is part of a wider range of measures – including a
recruitment drive for employed and self-employed guardians,
improving support to practitioners and allocating cases to regions
with spare capacity – to tackle the problem.
But the decision to use agency staff has been attacked as
dangerous and short sighted by Nagalro, the professional
association for family court advisers and independent social work
practitioners and consultants.
The organisation argues that using agency staff that get paid
more could further erode the relationship between Cafcass and
guardians, forcing some to look for alternative work. Self-employed
guardians are paid £22.50 an hour in the southeast, with
agency staff reportedly getting between £25-30 an hour.
Many left the service following Cafcass’s decision last
year, which was subsequently reversed, to scrap their self-employed
In a letter to members, Nagalro chair Susan Bindman, said she
was concerned that agency staff might not have the experience or
the commitment to the organisation of existing practitioners.
“We predict that such actions will only alienate the very
practitioners they need to keep and that whatever gains are made in
the short term will be lost in the longer term if experienced
practitioners stop taking allocations or if employees leave,” she
Nagalro has called for greater incentives for self-employed
workers to take on more cases. It is meeting Cafcass this week to
discuss employment quotas, a pay review for employees and the
reintroduction of travel expenses payments.
A Cafcass spokesperson said: “We want to try and meet the needs
of self-employed guardians. The work is out there and we’re
trying to find experienced guardians to deal with it.”
The spokesperson admitted agency staff are more expensive but
said Cafcass saw it as a “short-term measure we have to take”.
Nagalro has posted details of priority cases in London in the
hope it will encourage self-employed guardians to take on more