Cafcass is recruiting 50 newly qualified social workers (NQSWs) under plans to reform its traditional career structures.
The development is likely to concern Cafcass’ critics, including guardians’ body Nagalro, which has argued that the three years’ post-qualifying experience Cafcass guardians previously required – already reduced from five years – was insufficient.
The family courts body said in its annual report that recruiting NQSWs would help develop specialist staff internally so it was no longer “solely dependent on external labour market supply”. It is part of a move to reform the career structures of its frontline practitioners.
Children’s lawyers and guardians have pointed out that the level of complexity involved in the decisions guardians have to make, including challenging local authorities’ care plans, needs significant experience and expertise.
Demand for Cafcass’s services has risen by an unprecedented 33% in the past year, the report revealed. There have been 8,684 public law care cases, compared with 6,473 the previous year. Private law cases rose by 15%.
Cafcass chief executive Anthony Douglas said the increase in care cases was a direct result of the rising numbers of child protection referrals to local authorities and a sharp increase in the number of children now subject to child protection plans.
Cafcass has been working on a strategic plan to cope with the sustained increase in referrals which also includes the development of a watching brief role on less urgent cases.