Guardians’ body offers bonus and more holidays to quell union threat

The threat of industrial action at the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service has eased after it struck a deal with unions that had rejected its initial pay offer.

It has offered staff a 150 bonus on top of its 2.5 per cent basic pay offer, while the annual holiday entitlement of most employees will rise from 33 to 36 days.

Napo and Unison leaders will recommend the improved offer to members, who overwhelmingly rejected Cafcass’s initial overture of a 2.5 per cent rise only (news, 17 November).

Napo’s assistant general secretary, Jonathan Ledger, said: “We will give a strong recommendation to accept. Cafcass has really tried to come up with something.”

Cafcass chief executive Anthony Douglas said the organisation had gone “as far as we physically can within our budget this year in recognition of the pressures on staff”.

He added: “Because we are in a difficult financial situation we have had to make a one-off offer.”

Cafcass has been constrained by government pay limits and a financial crisis that forced Douglas to institute emergency measures to stave off a potential 4m overspend.

Less positive news for Cafcass this week, however, has come in the shape of a joint critique of its professional strategy, Every Day Matters, from Unison, Napo and family court guardians’ organisation Nagalro.

They say some of the strategy’s contents lack an “explicit evidential base” and that some proposals try to “mask” gaps in provision.

But Douglas said the strategy, particularly the proposals to speed up proceedings, shorten court reports and use more oral evidence, had been well received by the judiciary.

“We are interested in running with a group of changes that are widely understood,” he said, pointing out that the consultation on the strategy did not close until the end of January.

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