Cafcass has offered staff a 4% pay rise for 2023-24.
Though the family court body did not confirm the offer to Community Care, unions Napo and UNISON reported the figure in a recent update for members, whom they are now consulting on it.
Napo, the main union for family court advisers (FCAs), said it was recommending rejection of the offer, saying it would “do very little to motivate hard-working staff”.
The increase, which would also be applied to London weighting, would be in addition to a £1,500 one-off payment given to eligible staff at the family court body last month.
As a result of this, FCAs working outside of London, who earn £39,952 to £44,550, would see their pay go up by between 7.4% to 7.7% in 2023-24.
This is above the current rate of inflation, which was 6.7% in the year to August 2023, under the government’s preferred consumer prices index (CPI) measure.
However, it falls well short of the 14.4% claimed by unions Napo and UNISON. Also, just the 4% would be consolidated into practitioners’ salaries from next year onwards.
Comparison with council social workers
This would mean an extra £1,598 to £1,778 in consolidated pay to an FCA working outside of London. That increase would be topped up by an additional £188 for those working in the capital.
This means most FCAs would receive slightly less in consolidated pay than equivalently paid local authority social workers covered by the National Joint Council for Local Government Services (NJC), which covers most council staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
This group has been offered a flat-rate rise of £1,925 for 2023-24, though unions remain in dispute with local government employers over the proposal.
Last year, Cafcass staff received just a 2.51% rise in salary, compared with £1,925 for council staff, which was worth 4.5% to 5% to local authority advanced practitioners, who tend to have similar salaries to FCAs.
Offer ‘falls well short’ – Napo
Commenting on this year’s offer, Napo’s general secretary, Ian Lawrence, said: “The 4% offer from the employer falls well short of what was asked for by the unions, and will do very little to motivate hard working staff who are facing unsustainable workloads and contributing extra hours that stand little chance of being reconciled by way of time off in lieu.
“These are the principal reasons (along with the fact that the offer still represents a pay cut) why Napo is recommending rejection of the offer. It will be for members to determine how far they wish to go if they agree with us.’’
Cafcass said it could not comment on the offer while talks with the unions were ongoing.
Civil service pay limit
Unlike local authorities, Cafcass is governed by the national civil service pay remit, which limits the amount by which government departments may increase their overall salary bill.
This was set this year at 4.5%, with the potential for departments to offer an additional 0.5%, weighted towards the lowest paid.
The family courts body must also abide by a specific pay limit agreed with the Ministry of Justice, its sponsor department.
Napo said that the MoJ had permitted Cafcass to raise overall pay by the maximum permitted by the civil service pay remit. However this must fund pay increments and promotions, which was why the family courts body could offer no more than 4% as an annual increase.
The constraints these arrangements place on Cafcass has led the unions to call for the body to be removed from civil service pay policies.
In addition, Cafcass’s chief executive, Jacky Tiotto, has previously warned of the organisation facing an exodus of social workers because of its reduced ability to compete on pay with local authorities.
However, this year, it has meant staff receiving the £1,500 one-off payment, which was given to all non-senior civil service staff.
No similar cost of living payment was provided to local authority staff this year.