New Cafcass role provokes concern

Family court practitioner leaders have raised concerns about the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service appointing professionally unqualified staff to a new private law support role.

Cafcass wants a family support worker in each of its 110 teams to help shift its focus towards resolving disputes between separating parents and away from reporting on contested court hearings.

Their duties include visiting clients for fact-finding purposes and, with training, handling mediation sessions between parents.

But Alison Paddle, chair of court guardians’ association Nagalro, said she was sure the move was a cost-cutting measure.

She said: “In one area they see the children and take account of their wishes and feelings. That’s a skilled piece of work.”

About 15 have been appointed, and Cafcass wants the rest in place when the Children and Adoption Act 2006 is implemented.

Cafcass corporate director Lamorna Wooderson said they would supplement, not replace, family court advisers (FCAs), who retain responsibility for assessing children’s needs.

However, she admitted Cafcass was appointing them when FCA posts fell vacant, depending on an assessment of workforce needs.

FCAs require three years’ post-qualifying social work experience and are paid £27,317 to £32,782. Family support workers require a relevant vocational qualification and two years’ experience working with children or families and earn £18,576 to £21,854.

Cafcass published its annual report last week.

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