Cafcass backs down over allocation concern

The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service
(Cafcass) has backed down over plans to allow its managers to
allocate cases to children’s guardians with full workloads,
writes Derren Hayes.

Draft Cafcass guidance on case management protocols recommended
that appointing a child to a guardian who had a full case load was
better than leaving it unallocated.

It led to concerns that Cafcass was trying to “massage the
figures” by reporting to a court that the child had been
allocated a guardian even though they may not have been able to
begin working on the case for several weeks.

Alison Paddle, chairperson of guardian’s organisation
Nagalro, said it could have led to guardians being expected to take
on professional responsibility for a child’s welfare when
they knew they were unable to do the work.

“The child would be taken off the waiting list, but
wouldn’t have any protection if the guardian didn’t
have time to read the documents or instruct the solicitor.

“We know that there are guardians that have felt
pressurised by managers to take more work than they feel they have
the room to carry properly,” she added.

The draft said: “Where there is no availability amongst
the team to make an allocation in two days it may be possible for
the manager to…allocate to a guardian, even if it is not
possible to begin work immediately. The manager may consider this
preferable to non-allocation.”

Concern over the wording was initially raised in September, but
the passage remained unchanged in a second document published in

However, the wording has been changed in final guidance to
managers published this week with any mention of allocating a case
before a guardian is ready to begin working on it taken out

A Cafcass spokesperson admitted the wording had been changed in
the final document, but said that it was done to clarify the
situation because of concerns the guidance was
“confusing”. Overburdening guardians “isn’t
what we wanted to happen”, she added.

The protocol comes into use on 3 November.

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