Cafcass pay deal subject to 5% government ceiling

Civil service pay policy will shape Ministry of Justice limit on how much family courts body can raise social work salaries in 2023-24

2023 budget written on a piece of paper
Photo: ytemha34/AdobeStock

Pay rises for Cafcass social workers in 2023-24 will be subject to a 5% government limit on average increases in salaries.

The civil service pay remit guidance, published last week, says departments may increase their pay bill, on average, by 4.5%, plus an additional 0.5% targeted at lower-paid staff.

This applies to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), which sponsors Cafcass and will set a remit for the family courts body on how much it can increase salaries by in 2023-24.

Cafcass’s leadership has sounded repeated warnings in recent years about the organisation losing competitiveness on social work pay relative to local authorities, with salary increases for councils topping those for the family courts body in six of the past seven years.

Real-terms pay cut

Unions Napo and UNISON also threatened strike action, in the face of the 2.51% annual pay award in 2022-23, which was a significant real-terms pay cut. Inflation, according to the government’s preferred consumer prices index, rose by 10.1% in the 2022-23 financial year.

The salary increase Cafcass will be able to offer this year will depend on a number of factors, including:

  • Pay deals for MoJ staff and those in the other public bodies it sponsors, such as the Youth Justice Board. If these exceed 5% on average, there will be less available for Cafcass.
  • The need for average pay rises to be weighted towards lower-paid staff.
  • The pay remit set by the MoJ will apply to total remuneration, including promotions and incremental pay rises, so the annual headline salary increase will be less than this.

Napo and UNISON are about to submit their pay claim for 2023-24 to Cafcass, with the former’s general secretary saying that a 5% deal would fall far short of what was needed.

5% ‘massively below what is needed’

Ian Lawrence said: “Whilst the headline figure of 5% is an improvement on last year’s remit, there are still a number of hoops for employers to go through to even secure that figure. The additional problem is that 5% is still massively below what is needed to help our members deal with over a decade of lost pay, and the current increases in inflation and just about every bill one can think of. ‘

He added: “Once we submit our joint pay claim we will want to see evidence that we can have meaningful engagement and not simply a rerun of the usual charade of nothing really happening until staff feel pressurised into accepting a pay out in December. It’s entirely possible that our members will determine a different course of action.”

Cafcass said it was unable to comment at this stage.

Were Cafcass staff to deliver a 5% deal, this would be roughly in line with the £1,925 being offered to social work colleagues in most English and Welsh councils.

UNISON is due to ballot its local authority members on taking strike action against this offer, while fellow unions GMB and Unite are currently consulting their members on employers’ proposal and recommending rejection

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