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28 SEP 2009

Cafcass job cuts

Cafcass is cutting almost seventy jobs under a restructuring plan designed to balance their budget following the rise in care demand since the Baby P case.

Sixty six back office posts, including those of three corporate directors, are to be axed while eighteen jobs are to be created.

The restructure is expected to generate £2.7m in efficiency savings by mid-way through the 2010-11 financial year, which will be reallocated to frontline service delivery.

Anthony Douglas, Cafcass' Chief Executive commented: "Cafcass has a duty to protect the frontline services we offer children and families in need of support. Rising demand in both care cases and latterly in private law has meant that costs have escalated. We need to safeguard more children and families as well as balance our budget. This unfortunately means that we will need to cut some posts in our corporate centre.

"This restructure and our new operating priorities, along with the President's Interim Guidance, will help us to offer a safe minimum service to every child referred to us. We would love to do more, but as it is, the independent oversight of vulnerable children going through the family courts we offer in England and Wales (via Cafcass Cymru) remains the strongest such system in the world.

"Even if we have less time per case, we will do our utmost to make the time we do have count," he added.

Nationally care demand in the nine months to August 2009 is up 53.7% compared to the same period in the previous year. Private law case requests from courts in June 2009 were the highest ever recorded for a single month while the rise in applications by local authorities looks set to continue for many months yet, according to local authority projections.

Cafcass have reduced the number of unallocated section 31 cases in London from 411 in August 2009 to 151 this month as an unprecedented number of staff have requested to stay on beyond retirement age.

However, Ian Lawrence, the Assistant General Secretary of Napo, the union that represents Cafcass staff, told Newswatch that the union strongly opposed the cuts, and was critical of the way in which the plans were announced without prior negotiation with trade unions. He also said that while Napo agreed wholeheartedly with Cafcass' duty to protect frontline services to children and families in need of support, it had taken the organisation too long to recognise the real situation faced by hard pressed practitioners.

He went on to say that money which was needed on the front line had been misdirected to the centre against Napo advice creating a "Londonised bureaucracy" as opposed to the deployment of these senior managerial posts out into the network where the expertise was most needed.

Napo is seeking to negotiate a no compulsory redundancy agreement at forthcoming talks taking place later this month.

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