Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, Cafcass had been impacted by a decade of austerity and impossibly high workloads. It was already on the verge of not being able to allocate all private law applications promptly. The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated the difficulties within Cafcass and the Family Justice System.
Cafcass continues to lose 20 Family Court Advisers every month. Staff turnover in some areas is higher than it was. Recruitment is an ongoing challenge, particularly in some areas.
What this workload crisis means is that many of our members are physically and mentally exhausted due to the relentless demands being placed on them.
Workloads for FCAs remain unsafe and unsustainable, both in terms of being able to make safe and timely decisions for children and families and in terms of FCAs’ own health and wellbeing.
As a non-departmental public body, Cafcass is covered by Government pay policies, therefore in line with the Government’s pay pause there was no pay award for staff earning over £24,000 and a £250 (FTE salary pro-rata) pay award for staff earning under £24,000 for 2021/2022. This was extremely disappointing for our members considering the enormous challenges of the past year. Napo wrote to the Minister with our concerns requesting an urgent meeting. Disappointingly, we are still awaiting a response.
Napo formally wrote to Cafcass on 28 January 2022 to advise that, following the unsatisfactory outcome of discussions on the 2021/2022 Cafcass pay award and the inability of the employer to deliver a negotiated settlement, a trade dispute exists between workers represented by Napo and employed by Cafcass. The trade dispute relates to pay and workloads. Napo is reserving its position on balloting our members on industrial action, but we reserve our right to do so pending the progress of discussions towards the objective of securing a pay award effective from 1 April 2022.
In the meantime, Napo has requested that the JUPG considers writing to the Secretary of State asking what strategy he has in place to address the workload crisis, the pay predicament and the recruitment and retention of Cafcass staff.
To read the briefing click here https://www.napo.org.uk/workload-and-pay-crisis-cafcass-%E2%80%93-jupg-briefing-7-feb-2022