A trade dispute exists between workers represented by Napo and employed by Cafcass. This trade dispute relates to pay and workloads; the latter issue also being one that Napo believes the employer has failed to adequately respond to following our representations, therefore exacerbating an already serious operational position. This situation, alongside those which we have brought to the attention of senior management around unpaid hours being worked by many staff, continues to have a deleterious impact on our members. Cafcass has been told that Napo is reserving our position on balloting our members on industrial action at this time, but they have been told that we reserve our right to do so pending the progress of discussions towards the objective of securing a pay award effective from 1st April 2022.
An online rally of Napo members was held on the 1st of February 2022. The event was attended by Napo General Secretary Ian Lawrence and saw FCAs, Business support staff, Service Managers and Practice Supervisors from around the country expressing both their despair and anger at the continuing workload crisis and the insulting pay award that saw most of our members receiving nothing at all, and those earning less than £24,000 receiving a measly £250.
Members understood, that to some extent, the blame for this year’s pay freeze could be laid at the Government’s door, nevertheless, it is the Cafcass leadership that have failed to convince our paymasters that Cafcass should be exempted from the pay restrictions. Members were absolutely clear that going forward they expect Cafcass senior management to not only engage in a dialogue with their union negotiators but expect them to deliver a reward package that begins to address the erosion of our pay, particularly in comparison to the pay being offered in social work and social work management posts by local authorities.
Members at the meeting spoke about the way pay in Cafcass is falling behind that which is available for social workers in local authorities. Napo is aware of numerous examples of staff leaving Cafcass because they are sick and tired of the relentless workload pressure, and they can earn better money in social work roles and social work manager roles in local authorities. One striking example is the pay that is available to people who work as Independent Reviewing Officers, which is a role that many FCA’s working in Cafcass will have the skills and experience to fulfil. Members have expressed a view that this role is a good comparator when considering FCA’s pay.
Turning to workloads, this is an issue that is impacting on FCA’s, Practice Supervisors and Team Managers. Members at the meeting agreed that senior managers have got good at saying that they understand the pressures, but they were not so good at doing anything about it. Members spoke in frustration and despair about routinely working well above their contracted hours for no additional pay and how this was not sustainable in the long term. Members did not think Cafcass senior management had an effective strategy to deal with this and concern was expressed not just about the cost to members’ health and wellbeing but to the future of the organisation.
Napo members spoke of their dismay that the Chief Executive at a recent Live Event openly suggested that staff don’t just come to work for the pay and that she and Senior Leaders have stated that staff are frequently working well over their contracted hours without a strategy to rectify this. Members felt that these comments minimised the workload difficulties and the fact that staff have not had a real-terms pay increase for over a decade.
Members reported that there has been no let-up and that the pressure upon them remains relentless. Members expressed disbelief that Cafcass senior management continues to impose changes and reframed expectations upon social work staff which is a slap in the face when our working conditions are deteriorating, and our pay has been frozen yet again.
Members said that what they want to see is an effective strategy to tackle the workload crisis. The leadership of Cafcass should prioritise addressing the workload crisis until workloads fall to a sustainable and reasonable level. Among the ideas suggested are refocusing the organisation to address workloads and putting developmental work on hold; a moratorium on changes to ways of working unless they actively reduce the workload pressure or expectations upon staff members; utilising all staff who are registered social workers to do casework; spending money to employ more caseworkers; paying social work staff over time rather than spending on new developments and wasting it on things like sending out badges to staff.
The General Secretary Ian Lawrence addressed the meeting saying that he clearly heard the sense of anger and dissatisfaction from members about pay and workloads and he would ensure that this was clearly communicated to Cafcass senior leaders. Meetings between Napo negotiators and Cafcass senior leaders are scheduled to take place over the coming weeks, and he would report back to members at the next meeting.
The next all members meeting will be held on Tuesday 8th March 2022 from 5.00 pm-5.45 pm. Look out for joining details nearer the time.
If you are reading this and you are not a member of Napo, you can find out more about joining Napo here.
Yours in solidarity,
Steve Hornby- Co-Chair Family Court Section
Nicki Kenney- Co-Chair Family Court Section