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
    spokesperson.

    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    self-employed contracts which have since been withdrawn.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    withdrawn, following previous promises of a “mixed economy” of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
    spokesperson.

    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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