Cafcass pleads for more money

The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service is in
negotiation with the government over extra funding to cover an
expected overspend of £5 million this year, writes
Derren Hayes.

Jonathan Tross, Cafcass chief executive, said a record number of
cases in the early part of the summer and the large amounts spent
on self-employed guardians, were the main factors involved in the
agency’s projected overspend.

Tross said the service was managing demand it had no control of
within finite resources allocated by the Department for
Constitutional Affairs (DCA). Cafcass has seen the number of public
law cases referred to it rise by 7.5 per cent a year, although the
rate of increase has slowed over the past few months. It has a
budget of £95 million for 2003-04.

Tross said he had had meetings with children’s minister
Margaret Hodge, the Lord Chancellor and Department of Health
permanent secretary Nigel Crisp, who were “all aware we are
struggling in the present financial year, and are potentially going
to struggle next year if they don’t align expenditure with

The financial problems draw into question whether Cafcass will
be able to tackle the continuing problem of delays in allocating
guardians to children entering the care system – an issue
highlighted by this year’s damning DCA select committee

Figures for 2002-3 show Cafcass spent 13 per cent of its budget
(£12 million) on self-employed guardians. It is expecting to
spend a similar amount this year, although some of this
year’s expenditure relates to work carried out by
self-employed guardians last year.

Tross reiterated Cafcass’ commitment to a mixed economy of
employed and self-employed guardians, and said he’d be
writing to those who left the service over contractual wrangles to
ask them to consider coming back. 

It was also revealed that Cafcass is “unlikely to meet for
some time” its new performance targets for allocating a
guardian to cases within two days, and will not be completing cases
within the aimed 40 week timeframe – as recommended by its
new case management protocol – until the beginning of 2006.

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