Douglas warning of £3m savings as government pegs Cafcass funding

The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service will have to make operational changes to save more than £3m because its government funding will be pegged this year.

Chief Executive Anthony douglas has written to staff with “disappointing news” that the court guardians organisation’s grant for 2006-7 will remain at £100.8m.

The government has failed to provide more money, despite requests for an extra £5m, and Douglas warns: “2005-6 has been a tough year and 2006-7 will be even tougher.”

New costs for the nex financial year total more than £4m, he adds. Although savings can be made in some areas, more than £3.3m will need to be found overall, mostly from “changes in the way we deliver our services”.

Paddle, Alison 125x125Alison Paddle (pictured), chair of court guardians association Nagalro, warned that children would suffer because self-employed guardians would be used less often.

“The work will go up and the employed staff will have to take on more cases but do less work on them. The service for children will deteriorate,” she said.

One self-employed practitioner, who did not wish to be named, said she had been to an initial hearing but then the case was passed to another employed guardian.

She said there was no continuity for children because they were seeing different guardians.

But Douglas said there was “no objective basis” to equate the use of self-employed staff with higher standards of work.

“Most of the teams meeting our government targets on reducing delay are all employed teams,” he added, “but we will always want to carry on using the best selfemployed practitioners.”

In a parliamentary debate last week, the Liberal Democrats’ spokesperson for children, Annette Brooke, said there was “a great deal of concern about the potential under-resourcing of Cafcass when it is taking on a changing role”.

● Interagency case plans that are easy for parents and children to understand should be introduced in public law family court cases, a review into the protocol to speed up cases has recommended.

This would help to tackle the “medicalisation” of proceedings, says the report for Sir Mark Potter, the president of the family division of the High Court.

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