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BASW warns fees cap for independent social workers is “discriminatory”

Plans to cap fees for independent social workers acting as expert witnesses are “ill-conceived and discriminatory”.

That is the message from BASW to a parliamentary inquiry into the operation of the family courts.

In its written submission to the inquiry, which is being carried out by the Justice Select Committee, BASW argues: “Many BASW members view this as an affront on the social work profession, given that none of the other expert witnesses are being subjected to this treatment.”

It goes on to warn that such a move will make it untenable for independent social workers to act as expert witnesses, which will deprive vulnerable children of their expertise in complex cases and in turn lead to greater costs, given that social workers often help courts to reach more timely resolutions.

BASW’s submission also raises concerns about Cafcass, describing it as “unfit for purpose” and warning that its decision to tackle staff shortages by recruiting newly qualified social workers as guardians “beggars belief”.

It argues there are already shortages of children’s social workers in local authorities, where those starting out should be “learning their trade rather than working in a setting that requires those at a more advanced stage in their career”.

Earlier, this year BASW also submitted evidence to the National Audit Office, which was carrying out a study on Cafcass. It warned that the organization, which has dealt with record numbers of care applications since the death of Peter Connelly in 2007, needs to have a “radical change of direction”.

“It would greatly benefit from less micro management and excessive performance measurement with the onus on providing a qualitative service to children and their families,” says the submission.

It adds: “In relation to the work of the Social Work Reform Board, Cafcass once again needs to be an attractive career option for experienced social workers who wish to remain in practice and develop their skills to a very high standard.”