Cafcass staff may be balloted on industrial action amid absence of pay offer, says union boss

Family court body still waiting on pay remit from government as Cafcass social workers see council colleagues get £1,925 boost for 2022-23

Man voting from home
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Cafcass staff may be balloted on industrial action if the ongoing absence of a pay offer for 2022-23 persists or they are presented with too low an increase, a union chief has warned.

Ian Lawrence, general secretary at Napo, said staff were growing increasingly frustrated by the absence of an offer since it and UNISON issued a claim for a 10.8% rise in salaries in June to the family courts body.

This had been exacerbated by seeing social workers in councils in England and Wales covered by the National Joint Council for local government services agreement be granted a £1,925 rise for 2022-23.

The family courts body is waiting for its sponsor government department, the Ministry of Justice, to grant it a pay remit, which will be bound by civil service rules. This set a maximum increase in the pay bill of 2% plus an extra 1% if the organisation can demonstrate this would help it deliver on long-term priorities.

Pay deals lagging behind councils’

However, a 3% deal would be worth less than the local authority settlement, which would constitute a 4-5% rise for a family court adviser working outside London. This would come in the wake of Cafcass staff having received a lesser deal than local authority colleagues in five out of the previous six years.

The situation has prompted repeat warnings of a social worker exodus from Cafcass chief executive Jacky Tiotto. Staff turnover has increased from 8% to 13% over the past two years, though this is below the 15.4% seen in local authority children’s services in the year to September 2021.

Lawrence said he understood that the lack of a pay offer was not Cafcass’s fault.

However, he warned: “Members are very dissatisfied with the situation. Our family court section have threatened to hold a ballot about the fact that we’ve not had an offer. It’s further complicated by the news of the award to social workers across England and Wales. The bottom line is that people have seen that. If Cafcass won’t match or improve on it we would be in a difficult situation.

‘If I have to hold a ballot, I will’

“I don’t want the distraction of a ballot for industrial action when we haven’t got into discussions. I’m doing my best to get into discussions with senior management but if I have to hold such a ballot I will.”

“While our members are realistic they are also in a desperate situation with the cost of living crisis and need the employer to be responsive to their concerns. People are worried about their ability to meet their bills, get through the winter and report for work. It’s not a happy position. If in short order we get an offer that’s sub-standard, we may not have any option but to ballot. The mood among our members has been very strong over the past few months.”

In response, a Cafcass spokesperson said: “We are very mindful of the severe cost of living pressures faced by our staff and this is why we have been doing everything we can to maximise the benefits available and secure the best possible pay award for them within the pay guidance for civil servants, to which we are bound.

‘Chief executive’s apology’

“Our chief executive has written personally to all staff apologising for the delay and explaining that it has been out of our hands for some months and she has led regular communications internally providing updates to the absolutely unsatisfactory scenario in which Cafcass has found itself. We have now invited the trade unions to a meeting to discuss the offer we are able to make. It is for this reason that it would be inappropriate for us to comment further in public about the comment from Napo at this time.”

The spokesperson added that the family courts body was “concerned that our ability to recruit in the long term will be hampered by an uncompetitive pay offer”.

However, he added: “We do believe our wider reward strategy, our well-being package and our flexible working arrangements are attractive and that these have served us well as strong mitigations and we hope they will continue to do so.”

The Ministry of Justice said it had no update on the pay situation at Cafcass.

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11 Responses to Cafcass staff may be balloted on industrial action amid absence of pay offer, says union boss

  1. Louise November 11, 2022 at 6:31 pm #

    As an FCA I will not strike

    • JM November 11, 2022 at 7:40 pm #

      Why not?

    • Tom J November 14, 2022 at 10:25 am #

      Louise- When you say ‘I will not strike’ what the employer hears is ‘pay me whatever you want, treat me however you want as I will just take whatever you throw at me’.

      • Kay November 16, 2022 at 11:59 am #

        Tom J- precisely this. social work as a profession suffers from a real lack of collective self advocacy.

  2. Nicola November 11, 2022 at 7:25 pm #

    Sadly you have newly qualified SW earning more than experienced staff at Cafcass. They need to value their staff and give them the pay they fully deserve. No I do not work for Cafcass but would alongside them as an IRO and we have so many coming over to our service, which is great due to their knowledge but sad they are having to look at working in an area they may not wish to.

  3. Caroelle November 12, 2022 at 9:11 am #

    There has been a total silence from management for months in relation to pay. I am ready to strike, staff are leaving or ill and management are ignoring the impact of this.

  4. Caro November 14, 2022 at 4:44 pm #

    I fully support a strike I have given 20 years plus to cafcass and my pay has suffered year on year to unsustainable levels. Local IROs earn £10,000 a year more! Saying we have flexible working is not true when work loads are so high you cannot take toil.

  5. Truth speaker November 15, 2022 at 10:23 am #

    I am a Guardian and FCA. I am ready and waiting to strike. A career with Cafcass at one time was aspired to. It was career progression and a managerial equivalent position. The salary reflected experience, standard of work undertaken and ability to make independent decisions. The current salary and lack of organisational response to this crisis is quite frankly a slap in the face. Flexible working accounts to nothing when you have high case loads and ordered to attend Court almost daily. It’s a cop out. Pay better or watch experienced staff jump into agency positions.

  6. Free at last November 16, 2022 at 5:38 pm #

    I’ve left Cafass this year after 7 years and literally when my body reached the point of being unwell and not able to recover. When the demands were manageable, I loved the role as Guardian and I was good at it. I am angry that my colleagues left behind continue to face low pay, no respect from the courts and ridiculous claims from cafcass about flexible working and prioritising well-being. Get real cafcass senior management! You are bleeding good hard working Guardians and the comments about other positives, beyond pay, simply haven’t existed for years. If recommendations can be made to get rid of IRO’s ( which is utter madness), just keep sitting back and wait till the same is said about Guardians. Stop down grading the role, pay, conditions and protect your staff. They have a pretty important job to do.

  7. Fed up November 18, 2022 at 5:01 pm #

    The pay award is a complete insult to the expertise of Cafcass staff. The organisation takes advantage of our commitment to children and goodwill provides thousands of free hours per year. Unfortunately only some form of action will demonstrate we’ve had enough!

  8. Steve November 29, 2022 at 4:16 am #

    A pay increase will hardly stop the better staff leaving as conditions deteriorate and workloads remain too high.