Guardians’ revolt escalates

Four hundred children’s self-employed guardians have said
they will not join the Children and Family Court Advisory and
Support Service, according to the guardians’ professional
association., writes Jonathan Pearce.

The National Association of Guardians Ad Litem and Reporting
Officers has received 400 letters from guardians saying the
contract of salaried employment offered by Cafcass is
“unacceptable”, following the new service’s decision to
renege on offering a self-employed contract.

The number represents over half of the 750 self-employed
guardians, threatening to bring the guardian service to the point
of collapse from August. Earlier this month, the guardians were
given three weeks to sign the contracts by 27 July or leave the
service altogether.

Most of the guardians – who provide a vital safety net for
children in care cases – are either unwilling to sign because
of detrimental terms and conditions, or are simply unable to sign
because of other commitments and work which would be precluded
under salaried employment by Cafcass.

“We have been advised we would be giving many of our employment
rights away by signing the contracts,” said a Nagalro

Cafcass’ contingency plans include a recruitment campaign
launched this month for “family court advisers” in public/private
law childcare proceedings. A Cafcass spokesperson said it had
already received about 500 expressions of initial interest.

Nagalro has asked for an extension of the three-week contract
deadline, particularly in the light of a high court judicial review
hearing on 30 July. But Cafcass chief executive Diane Shepherd has
refused the request, citing the end of an Inland Revenue moratorium
on the current guardians’ payment arrangements at the end of
August. Nagalro has questioned the existence of the moratorium.

The judicial review was originally granted in June to consider
the fairness of the fixed-fees proposals contained in the
self-employed contracts which have since been withdrawn. Nagalro
has now received permission for a second judicial review to be
heard on the same date, which will challenge the “arbitrary and
unfair” way in which the self-employed contracts have been
withdrawn, following previous promises of a “mixed economy” of
employed and self-employed guardians.

If successful, the review would set aside any contracts while a
period of full and proper consultation took place, said a Nagalro

Cafcass is also threatening to make PAYE and national insurance
deductions from self-employed guardians’ pay from August for
those guardians who decide not to join, but still have outstanding
case-work to complete. According to Nagalro lawyers, Cafcass has no
authority to make the deductions.



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