Cafcass staff offered ‘insulting’ 2.5% pay rise with inflation at 11%

Offer, based on Ministry of Justice pay remit, lags behind pay deal for council social workers as Cafcass warns of long-term recruitment and retention problems and unions voice anger

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Cafcass staff have been offered a 2.51% pay rise dubbed “insulting” by unions, with the annual inflation rate currently running at 11%.

As well as amounting to a substantial real-terms pay cut, the offer for 2022-23 from the country’s biggest employer of social workers lags behind this year’s pay rise for local authority practitioners in England and Wales.

While the family courts body had hoped to offer more, it is constrained by the pay remit set by its sponsor government department, the Ministry of Justice, which this year amounted to a 3% rise in the overall pay bill, including incremental rises.

As a result, Cafcass could only offer a 2.51% headline increase, and an equivalent rise in London weighting, which would both be backdated to April if agreed.

Lower offer than council deal for social workers

Family court adviser pay outside London ranges from £38,974 to £43,459, meaning the offer would amount to an additional £980 to £1,090 for most FCAs, with those inside the capital gaining an additional £120 on top of their current weighting of £4,582 a year.

The rise falls far short of the £1,925 awarded to council social workers covered by the National Joint Council for local government services agreement, and is also below the £1,400 – £1,833 rise for NHS social workers this year.

It comes with the general secretary of Napo, the main union representing Cafcass staff, having warned that it may have to ballot members on industrial action in the event of an offer perceived as too low.

In a letter to members, leaders of unions Napo and fellow union UNISON said the offer was a “predictably depressing response” to their claim for a 10.8% rise.

‘Insulting offer’

They added: “As you would expect the employer has been told that this is an insulting offer from government which will cause serious anger to their staff. Yet again, the employer has been given no latitude by government to negotiate an increase in the available pay envelope. Neither does it take account of the recent pay award for social workers in local authorities.”

Cafcass has given the unions until 14 December to respond to the offer, and Napo and UNISON are planning to hold a consultative ballot with members to gauge views.

The offer comes with Cafcass having issued repeated warnings over the risks to retention of another pay rise below that awarded to local authority social workers, which has happened in five of the previous six years.

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.

Retention risks from ‘uncompetitive pay offer’

A Cafcass spokesperson said: “Cafcass has now been given approval for this year’s pay award from the Ministry of Justice and this information has been shared with Cafcass staff. We are concerned that our ability to retain and recruit in the long term will be hampered by an uncompetitive pay offer.

“However, 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 pay remit was itself governed by central government rules on civil service salary increases for 2022-23. This set a limit of increasing the overall pay bill by 2%, which could be increased to 3% in the event of a convincing business case, related to long-term service transformation.

In a letter to the unions last week, Cafcass senior managers said the body “had argued strongly and persistently for this additional 1% and
we are pleased that this year we have been successful in securing that additional”.

They also pointed to other ways in which the family courts body had improved its reward package, including through the addition of a “wellbeing day” and a temporary increase to mileage rates.

In response to the offer, a Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “Cafcass plays a vital role ensuring children’s voices are at the heart of the family court which is why we provided £4.7m in additional funding to help it operate during the pandemic. The latest pay offer is in line with others across central government.”

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4 Responses to Cafcass staff offered ‘insulting’ 2.5% pay rise with inflation at 11%

  1. Richard M November 26, 2022 at 4:44 pm #

    Cafcass’ pay has fallen in real terms by 22% since 2010. This pay ‘award’ is in fact a 7.5% pay cut after inflation, the biggest so far.

    Expect industrial action……

  2. Stephen November 30, 2022 at 5:20 am #

    Staff leave cafcass mainly I believe because of poor working conditions , expectations and huge caseloads as their pay is still more than local authority social workers .

    • Bradley November 30, 2022 at 4:45 pm #

      ASYE’s are being offered in Cambridgeshire £35,500. Social Workers £36-£39k and Senior Social works at 41-£44k

      So not far off

      • Richard M December 2, 2022 at 3:41 pm #

        Yes Cafcass SWs’ pay will soon be overtaken nationally, already has been in some Local Authorities