Guardians win `stay` until September

A collapse in the children’s guardians service has been
averted, with the decision by the high court to impose a `stay`
until 11 September on the employment contracts offered by the
Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service to the
self-employed guardians, writes Jonathan

The high court decision represents a reprieve – albeit
temporary – for the self-employed guardians, who represent
vulnerable children in care and adoption cases, in their dispute
with Cafcass, which has seen a withdrawal of the option of

Over half of the 750 self-employed guardians had indicated the
contracts were “unacceptable” when they receive them at the
beginning of July with three weeks to make up their minds. Many
were simply unable to sign because of other commitments and work
which were precluded by salaried employment, while others were
unwilling to sign because of the detrimental terms and

The high court has also given the guardians’ professional
body, the National Association of Guardians Ad Litem and Reporting
Officers, permission for a full judicial review hearing in
September on the issue of self-employment.

“It is most regrettable that it has taken high court
intervention to bring Cafcass to full and open consultation on
contracts,” said Susan Bindman, Nagalro chairperson. “But we are
convinced that we can now make progress in our bid to save and
properly develop the service, which is critical to the interests of
vulnerable children in care and adoption cases.”

Cafcass will continue to allocate work to the self-employed
guardians on their existing terms, but will also proceed with its
parallel recruitment process for public/private law

Cafcass was officially launched in April to unify the family
court welfare service (formerly part of the Probation Service) with
the guardian ad litem service – previously run by local
authorities at arms’ length to scrutinise care and adoption

Since then the guardians have been in a running battle with
Cafcass over the terms of their transferral – centring on
proposals to pay fixed fees as opposed to an hourly rate, which
guardians claimed threatened their professional independence and
the quality and scope of their work.





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