Cafcass Open Board Meeting
You may remember that Napo submitted a question to the Cafcass Open Board meeting that took place on the 28.05.21 about the results from our members’ workloads survey. We have received a formal response from Jacky Tiotto that we wanted to share with you.
Napo's question was:
In response to ongoing stress and concern about workloads experienced by Cafcass social work staff, Napo have conducted a survey of its Cafcass members in respect of workloads.
We asked our members to tell us how many cases they thought they could safely manage at one time
86% of responders gave a figure between 14 and 20. The average number of cases that practitioners thought they could safely hold was 17.4. However, for FCA’s on public law teams, the average figure dropped to 16.5. The average response in terms of safeguarding letters per day that could be completed by workers on an EIT team, when they were not doing court duty, was 1.6.
Our members have expressed their disappointment, and in some cases their anger, that despite these figures being communicated to senior management, Cafcass management continue to make reference to 25 cases. For example, in an e mail to all staff on the 11th May the senior leadership team made reference to working towards “all practitioners having manageable caseloads that are not in excess of 25 cases”.
Our members tell us that it is not possible to safely manage 25 case within their contractual hours. They have told us what is manageable.
In light of the above:
Does the Cafcass board expect Cafcass staff to work in excess of their contracted hours in order to provide a safe service to children and their families?
Does the Cafcass board accept that 25 cases are not manageable within contracted hours?
What measures does the board intend to implement to ensure that children and families receive a safe service from Cafcass staff working within their contracted hours?
Jacky Tiotto's answer was:
Cafcass continues to have fortnightly discussions with both Napo and Unison. Senior leaders including an Operational Director and the Head of Human Resource attend. This is in addition to the quarterly Partnership Meetings that are attended by other senior leaders including myself.
As has been explained in those meetings previously, the figure of 25 cases has been noted as a number that caseloads in work after first hearing and public law shouldn’t exceed. It has been made clear that this isn’t a figure that staff are expected to work to in all cases but is an upper limit beyond which steps would be taken with the individual staff member to reduce the caseload. It is also a starting point in our very significant programme of work and negotiation with the wider Family Justice System to respond to the demand pressures on us and the impact of the pandemic on family law proceedings. Both require careful weighing and balancing of our statutory responsibilities in respect of the protection of children, provision of advice to the family courts and the welfare of our staff.
The circumstances of each Family Court Advisor are also different, and Cafcass have confirmed that no matter how many children are being worked with, if a Family Court Advisor needs assistance in managing any aspect of their work then they should speak to a manager so that support and solutions can be found.
Cafcass doesn’t want Family Court Advisors to have to work unreasonable hours in order to provide the court with information on the best interests of the children involved in proceedings and that is why we have sought to give 25 cases as a marker in our commitment to reduce caseloads further.
Napo have previously been informed that there will be a review of the existing workload weighting process and that the unions will be engaged in this. We want to continue to reduce caseloads even in the current circumstances of increased demand, delays in the wider syste and the limits of the resources available within Cafcass’ budget. We will continue to offer dialogue with Napo and other unions to work together for long term, realistic and sustainable solutions.
Cafcass' Ofsted Visit
As you are aware Ofsted conducted a remote focused visit to Cafcass in April 2021. Ofsted praised the quality of social work practice at Cafcass despite practitioners managing record caseloads during the pandemic. Napo provided comments to a Community Care article reporting on this in which we highlighted our members' unwavering dedication and commitment to the children and families we work with and demanded urgent action to alleviate the workload pressures.
Napo continues to meet with Cafcass Senior Leaders on a fortnightly basis to discuss the Covid-19 pandemic and recovery planning. Napo has urged caution moving forward particularly in light of the emergence of the delta variant. Cafcass agreed with this approach and has reminded all staff who live and or work in a 'hotspot' to take this into consideration when completing their risk assessments. The current guidance for Working with Children through Covid-19 remains in effect until the Government decides to commence the final step currently scheduled for the 19th July 2021.
Napo representatives have had their first meeting with Jack Cordery (Cafcass Director of Operations North) who replaces Kevin Gibbs, who is due to depart Cafcass shortly, in these meetings. This was a positive engagement which we hope to build on.
Thank you to everyone who has already responded to this survey. Any further responses need to be sent to Steve Hornby (Co-chair of the Family Court Section) Steve.Hornby@CAFCASS.GOV.UK by the end of Monday 28th June so we can collate responses to present at the next Partnership Meeting with Cafcass in July.
Dates for the diary
Next members' meeting is on Tuesday 6th July between 1.00pm-1.45pm by zoom (link below):
Family Court Section Annual General Meeting is arranged to take place on the afternoon of Thursday 16th September 2021 by zoom- please look out for further information.
Napo National Annual General Meeting is due to take place between Thursday 14th - Saturday 16th October 2021 at Newcastle Civic Centre. This will be a hybrid event. We will know how many members can attend in person nearer the time as it will depend on whether any Covid-19 restrictions will be in place. If you would like to register to attend in person please email Nicki Kenney (Co-chair of the Family Court Section) Nicola.Kenney@CAFCASS.GOV.UK
Hope to see you soon,
Nicola Taylor-Ebong (National Vice-Chair (Cafcass))
Ian Lawrence (General Secretary)