Guardians begin legal action against Cafcass

Children’s guardians are seeking to take legal action
against Cafcass – the Children and Family Court Advisory and
Support Service – over its decision to impose fixed fees
rather than pay through hourly rates.

Nagalro – the National Association of Guardians Ad Litem
– lodged an application for judicial review at the high court
early in May after a month of meetings failed to resolve
self-employed guardians’ concerns over the running of the
service, and their ability to represent children effectively in
care and adoption cases.

A Cafcass spokesperson expressed surprise at the move and
indicated the draft contracts it issued to guardians, offered them
the option of either working as a self-employed contractor, paid on
the basis of fixed-fees set in bands, or becoming a Cafcass

The dispute has clouded Cafcass’s operation since it was
launched by the Lord Chancellor at the beginning of April. The
guardians – formerly guardians ad litem funded by local
authorities – have been integrated with the family court
welfare services and the children’s division of the official
solicitor’s department.

Since the beginning of April, Nagalro and Cafcass have met three
times, but there has been no consideration of the guardians’
alternative proposals, according to Nagalro. The only self-employed
contract likely to be offered would be an amended, graduated fee
contract, Cafcass chief executive Diane Shepherd told Nagalro
representatives in April.

The guardians claimed last week’s draft contracts, which
cannot be agreed without the approval of the Lord Chancellor,
threaten their ability to protect the best interests of children in
care and adoption cases.

They now have until 14 June to consider the proposals and
feedback any comments.

At the end of the consultation period, Cafcass will make a
formal offer to the guardians, giving them time to decide what to
do. It has promised to regularly review the new system.

In the meantime, self-employed guardians will continue to work
under their previous terms and conditions before Cafcass took over
the service. If agreement cannot be reached, parts of England and
Wales could face the prospect of having no guardians to appoint in
children’s public law cases.




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