New offer tabled to resolve Cafcass dispute

Self-employed children’s guardians have been offered both
employed and self-employed contracts by the Children and Family
Court Advisory Service, writes Jonathan

The move marks an end to a year of hostile relations between the
guardians – formerly guardians ad litem – and Cafcass, the
government agency created last April to unify the family court
welfare service, the local authority guardian ad litem service and
the children’s arm of the official solicitor.

In a letter to guardians last week, Cafcass’ director of legal
services Charles Prest admitted the dispute had “cast a shadow over
(Cafcass’) first year”, but said the organisation was keen to
“reach a solution”.

When Cafcass took over the guardian service last April, the 700
or so self-employed guardians rejected offers of self-employed
contracts based on fixed fees, arguing for an hourly rate as a
means of ensuring their independence and professional ability to
carry out full investigations of child care cases.

By July, Cafcass had withdrawn any offer of self-employment,
forcing many guardians to consider leaving the service altogether.
But last September the guardians won a judicial review of Cafcass’
decision, which the high court ruled unlawful, and both parties
have been in negotiations ever since.

All 688 self-employed guardians offering services at the end of
last March have been offered either a contract of full, salaried
employment with Cafcass, or a self-employed contract based on an
hourly rate of £20 (£22.50 in London and eight other
areas), which will include travel, equipment, facilities and
professional development costs.

The 172 guardians who have accepted Cafcass employment during
the last year will also be allowed to choose from the new contracts
on offer. Guardians have until the end of March to make their


More from Community Care

Comments are closed.