This is a guest blog post written by Ian Merry. Ian is a qualified and registered social worker who washed up on Cafcass' shore in 2007 as a Family Support Worker in the Newcastle upon Tyne region. Prior to this he worked with vulnerable children and young people for over 37 years. Ian found the direct work with service users in Private Law to be challenging, demanding and exacting, particularly interviewing children to elicit and present to court their wishes and feelings about the issues that directly affect them.
Frontline cuts in Cafcass……just one big question to answer
I wish to thank Mr Philip Measures and Mr Tony Ryan for framing pertinent FOI questions regarding FSW’s and Cafcass.
You may not know that 55 Family Support Workers, (FSW’s), have been made redundant in Cafcass, nationally in March 2012, with a reduction of 2035 man hours lost per week in direct work, with no clear indication as to who is going to take up this shortfall in direct work with children and families in Private Law matters , post redundancy.
A parlous situation indeed.
You may know that Cafcass Family Support Workers were recruited to undertake direct work in Private law proceedings. Working with qualified Cafcass Family Court Advisers, FSW’s undertook Wishes and Feelings exercises with children and young people, Level 2 Supervised and Reported Contacts, Family Assistance Orders, and other beneficial approaches like Family Group Conferences and Children First.
They became experts in Cafcass in direct work with children and their work was much recognised and praised by the magistracy, judiciary, and other stakeholders like Ofsted, over a period of 5 years.
The following e-mail was the first intimation of impending redundancy for most Cafcass FSW’s, sent notifying significant people of the plan to delete over 50 FSW posts nationally, in 2012.
Date: Fri, 20 Jan 2012 11:05:15
Further to discussions at the Strategic Partnership meeting on 18 January 2012, I am writing to confirm the following:
• We currently have 80fte Family Support Worker roles;
• We are proposing to delete at least 50 of these roles and will be looking to retain 30 FSWs, subject to budgetary provision in the local areas;
• The 30 posts we are looking to retain will be on the basis where staff have either qualified, part qualified or are about to begin the social work degree.
• Heads of Service will begin discussions with FSWs in the next week and a formal at risk letter, for eligible staff, will be sent next week;
• We have made it clear in the letter that FSWs are encouraged to discuss any concerns/issues with Local Managers, HR and Trade Unions (where they are members);
• We will work with colleagues on redeployment across Cafcass and the wider Civil Service;
• The proposed termination of employment on grounds of redundancy will be 31 March 2012 (or from a date to be agreed locally between Heads of Service and FSWs based on local service needs);
• We are also running a voluntary early retirement and severance programme alongside this process.
We will keep you updated and if you have any questions, please do let me know.
Jabbar Jabbar Sardar Director of HR and Organisational Development Cafcass
Under government spending constraints all Quangos had to make considerable efficiency savings year on year and after the first round of redundancies considered in 2010, how did the Cafcass Executive arrive at their plan to balance the 2012/13 budget, and how did the Cafcass Board endorse this? and who is going to take up the work of 55 full time FSW’s??
A disturbing feature of this situation surrounds the formulation and presentation of the need to make any frontline services redundant, by the Cafcass Executive to the Cafcass Board for consideration, where the livelihoods of 55 FSW’s are considered in a seemingly disrespectful manner, becomes a visibly unedifying spectacle.
FOI 567 request tell us that…..
"The Board discussed a proposal for savings at an informal seminar on 08 December 2011 when the CEO raised the issue of the need to make savings to balance the 2012/13 budget. Formal Cafcass business is not usually discussed at Board seminars or if it is raised, it is usually then added to the Board's agenda by way of any other business at the following day's Board meeting so that the discussion can be minuted.
Unfortunately due to an oversight this was not done on this occasion, so the minutes of the Board's meeting on 9 December do not contain a record of the discussion.
The attached is a record of the discussion 08 December 2011 –
The CEO gave a presentation to the Board at its seminar in which he put forward a savings programme which had been scoped by the Corporate Management Team to reach the savings total required whilst minimising the negative impact on service delivery. Members discussed the issues raised, including the pros and cons of deleting circa 50 Family Support Worker posts and concluded by endorsing the CEO's proposal for savings".
A number of further questions arise out of these revelations.
- Why was the issue of redundancies up for discussion at an informal seminar on the 8th of December 2011 even though there’s a full Board Meeting the next day, the 9th of December 2011.
- Why were no minutes taken at the seminar, considering that someone would have possessed writing materials at a seminar.
- I have requested a copy of the CEO’s presentation to the Board and am awaiting sight of this.
- Why was there no reference to the decision to make 55 staff redundant in the minutes of the formal Board meeting of the 9th of December.
- Why no news item or press release concerning these redundancies.
Is this how things are done in Cafcass these days?
As a result of this distinct lack of useful information concerning these matters being readily available from Cafcass a further number of FOI questions were put to them
In answer to FOI questions dated 13th February 2012 ref CAF 523 below:
“1 Can I have a copy of the management plan to select those earmarked for redundancy together with any other relevant information regarding this action?
Cafcass are deleting Family Support Worker (FSW) posts as our service is changing more into a Family Court advisor (FCA)-based service, in which all practitioners need to be able to produce a strong case analysis as early in the court process as possible, in both public and private law cases.
Direct work in private law cases will need to be undertaken on the whole by commissioned services. The budget for those services is a separate budget from Government and that is being maintained next year”.
2 Why is this necessary?
Up to 55 FSW posts will be deleted from 1 April 2012, as part of a savings package of £2.5 million, which is the minimum amount we must save if we are to balance our budget next year (2012/13). Around 25 FSW’s will be retained. Our savings packages in past years have been able to avoid cutting into front line posts.
3 Who is going to take up their direct work with children?
In the future, support for children and their parent/s in private law cases will primarily come from commissioned services. FCA’s will advise courts about the suitability and availability of these services locally in individual cases.
4 Have any managers taken a pay cut in order to prevent reductions in frontline staff?
Over the past three years, all the savings have been made from corporate functions or deletion of management roles. These are now at minimum staffing levels in all Cafcass functions, so there are no more large numbers of back room posts we can safely delete.
Despite political and organisational pledges to protect frontline services, here we appear to have one axed without a murmur.
However on we go…..in answer to a further FOI request regarding the stated transfer of work from FSW’s to external providers which appeared to be the case on the 13th of February Cafcass now says on the 2nd April 2012 ref: JJ/CAF 544:
“There will be no outsourcing. There is no TUPE situation as the work is not being outsourced. Cafcass will save £1.6m from 54 posts”.
So where is the work going to go?….we’re talking about 2035 man hours a week which I know were fully used…..and more.
In answer to FOI request reference number 2012/0029300 on 31-05-2012 DfE gives the following figures for the budgets set for externally commissioned services from 2007 onwards:
“I am also reproducing here the headline figures held by the Department since 2007 as per your request”:
• 2012/13 – Cafcass budget is £127.4mn. In addition Cafcass will receive £1.9m for contact services.
• 2011/12 – Cafcass budget was £130mn of which £3.4mn was spent on contact services.
• 2010/11 – Cafcass budget was £143.4mn of which £3.4mn was spent on contact services.
• 2009/10 – Cafcass budget was £131.2mn of which £3.4mn was spent on contact services.
• 2008/09 – Cafcass budget was £113.9mn of which £3.4mn was spent on contact services.
• 2007/08 – Cafcass budget was £107mn of which £2.5mn was spent on contact services.
As the figures state the budget has been £3.4mn for the last 4 years but now with all the additional work externally commissioned services will have to do in 2012/13, they will have to do this with a major reduction in funds down to £1.9mn for this year….almost halved….how does that work??
Well the common sense answer is that it doesn’t work, but then neither does this current situation where a definitive answer is still needed as to how the work of 55 full time practitioners in direct work is going to be absorbed by Cafcass without any increase in resources internally or externally and without reducing services to service users or causing further delay……over to you Mr Douglas.
All FOI information can be checked on the “What Do They Know” Website and great respect to them for providing a genuinely useful public service.