Cafcass is cutting almost 70 jobs, including those of three corporate directors who report directly to chief executive Anthony Douglas, as it looks to balance its budget following huge extra pressures caused by a surge in care applications.
The family courts body is also creating almost 20 new roles, leading to net annual savings of £2.7m by the end of the 2010-11 financial year.
In a letter to staff this week, Douglas said he believed there was a consensus that “if savings have to fall somewhere – and regrettably they do – it will have to be on back room services, not on direct services to children and families”.
Cuts to use of self-employed guardians
Douglas also said Cafcass would “reduce use” of self-employed guardians until March 2010. In an interview with Community Care last month, he admitted Cafcass had committed its budget for the entire 2009-10 financial year, due to a massive increase in care applications since the baby Peter case.
Under the restructure, the roles of corporate directors Cafcass’s three corporate directors, who each earn almost £130,000 a year, will be deleted.
In addition, Cafcass will cut the jobs of the directors’ personal assistants, three corporate strategists, five business managers, three area business managers, 11 of 47 specialist service managers, and its head of knowledge, learning and practice development (KLPD).
However, it will create three new business transformation manager posts, the position of head of diversity, plus various support roles.
In a busy week for Cafcass communications, the organisation also issued new operating priorities for the period to March 2010 to enable it to clear its backlog of cases.
The document outlines that Cafcass will only be able to offer a “safe minimum service” on all cases, and that the “previous extent of planned work in long-running cases will only be possible in a limited number of the most exceptional cases”.
But Nagalro, which represents children’s guardians, criticised proposals that there should be “no blanket expectations” for guardians to read all local authority files in new cases, saying this could mean guardians were not aware of the full background to cases.
Cafcass’s problems in London were also laid bare in a message to self-employed contractors from David Stephens, head of Cafcass’s public law intake implementation project.
Stephens said the rise in demand had been “far greater than anyone could predict”, with Cafcass now handling 1,800 section 31 care order applications in London.
This would require at least 180 full-time children’s guardians “under traditional ways of working”, he said.
However, Cafcass currently employs 60 full-time guardians in London plus the equivalent of 40 full-time contractors.
“To work as we have, we need to double the workforce at least, and then add on a few more staff for growth, leave, sickness and so on,” he wrote. “I do not see that as probable.”
More than 400 cases were awaiting allocation in London until Cafcass allocated up to seven extra cases per employed guardian in the past month, leading to concerns that guardians will be under too much pressure to offer a proper service to children.